Eastern Illinois went to the ground this weekend, rushing for three touchdowns, in a 37-17 win on the road at Murray State. The Panthers led 30-0 before the Racers came alive in the second half scoring 17 straight points but the comeback attempt would come up short.
Three different players found the end zone on the ground as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and running backs Shepard Little and Taylor Duncan all scored. While the ground attack got the scores, the Panthers did toss the ball around on a windy day throwing for 299 yards. The Panthers were far from perfect as they turned the ball over twice on the ground.
Last week quarterback Maikhail Miller was pulled against UT Martin, this week he was on the bench as Parks Frazier got the start under center today. It didn’t work well however as the Racers turned it over on downs the same amount times in the first half than they had all year (twice). First two plays in the second half resulted in turnovers, spelled the end for the Racers whose defense once again allowed over 600 yards of offense.
Frazier and the Racers offense came alive in the second half, but would fall short. In Frazier’s first career start he through for (255) yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Panthers came out against the wind and it was barely noticeable for the Panthers who marched down the field. The game’s first points would on a read option that Garoppolo would keep and score from 12 yards out. The Racers first possession with Frazier at the quarterback position was all ground game as two passes were dropped by Janawski Davis on the drive. Facing a fourth down, Berry would be stopped inches short of the first down marker.
The Panthers would drive the field once again but the drive would be see three Panther penalties. The Panthers special teams issues would show their head as kicker Cameron Berra missed an easy (expect to EIU) 27-yard field goal attempt to keep the game 7-0.
With the wind to their backs in the second quarter, the Panthers would open up the offense. Eastern Illinois would cap off an 11 play, 80 yard drive as running back Taylor Duncan powered up the middle of the Racers defense for a five-yard touchdown. Murray State would march down the field but once again would not be able to convert. The Racers would get two chances from the one-yard line but the Panthers would get the stops on runs by Frazier and Berry.
With 95 yards in front of the Panthers, Eastern Illinois would be up to it. Using a mixture of the pass and ground, the Panthers would grind away capping off the drive with a touchdown from Garoppolo to Lora from eight-yards out to make it 21-0 at the half.
The Panthers in the opening half had 296 yard of total offense and 20 first downs. Murray State was held to just 121 yards and just 49 yards on the ground. One positive light for the Racers defense, Garoppolo didn’t get 200 yards passing in the first half something no other team can say.
The Racers would take over after a Panther punt and get two huge plays against the Panthers defense. After a 47 yard run by Duane Brady, and a 23 yard reception by Jesse Blackburn, Frazier would find Pokie Harris from eight-yards out to get on the scoreboard.
With the crowd re-energized, Brandon Wicks would strip Little on the kickoff and the Racers would recover it at the Panthers 30. The Racers would only get a field goal, as Marc Wynstra made a 31 yard field goal to make it a 30-10. The Panthers would try to respond but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would ruin their promising drive at the end of the third quarter.
Looking to make a 20 point comeback in the final quarter, the Racers would get a 16 yard run by Frazier plus an additional 15 yards due to an EIU player making the tackle with his helmet off. The Panthers would buckle down and force the Racers to punt after the penalty. The Panthers would intercept Frazier midway through the final quarter but would hand it right back to the Racers as Adam Drake fumbled giving the Racers life. The Racers took advantage as Frazier led the team down the field and found Nevar Griffin for a 14 yard touchdown making it 30-17.
With the game looking like it was slipping away, Little would find a gap in the Racers defense and erupt for a 61 yard touchdown run to seal the game for Eastern Illinois.
The win moves the Panthers to 9-1 on the season and a perfect 6-0 in OVC play. The loss moves the Racers to .500 at 5-5 (3-3). The Racers will have to regroup as they travel to Tennessee State next week for the Tigers season finale, while the Panthers return home to face Jacksonville State.