By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Eastern Illinois' consistency on
offense Saturday was something that Tennessee Tech couldn't match
and the Panthers (4-5/4-1 OVC) rattled off a 41-10 Ohio Valley
Conference victory over the Golden Eagles (3-6/2-4 OVC) in Tucker
Stadium. It was Tech's first loss at home this season after opening
with three consecutive victories.
Three times inside their own five-yard line, the Golden Eagle defense tried to make goal line stands, but the Panthers always found an opening.
The defending OVC champion looking to make a run at repeating, Eastern Illinois outscored Tech 17-0 in the second quarter to take control of what was a close game in the early going.
Transfer quarterback Jalen Whitlow picked apart the Golden Eagle secondary, going 19-for-24 for 297 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran 10 times for 45 yards and another touchdown to account for 342 yards of total offense and five scores.
The Panthers also got a solid one-two punch on the ground, with Sheperd Little rushing for 92 yards and Taylor Duncan gaining 72. EIU's third-leading rusher turned out to be punter Nick Bruno, who raced 63 yards late in the game on a fake punt, a rumble down that sidelines to the Tech eight that set up his own 23-yard field goal for the games final score.
EIU marched 83 yards in 14 plays with the opening drive for a 7-0 lead, the touchdown coming on a fourth-and-goal from the one after Tech had thrown up a wall on three straight plays. Whitlow lobbed a pass to Joe Powell in the back corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
The Golden Eagles replied with a 25-yard field goal from John Arnold to make it 7-3 after the first quarter. It came after James Huguely forced a Panther fumble at the 46 and Harrison Reid recovered for Tech. Tech moved 38 yards in 11 plays to set up the score.
EIU put together a solid second quarter, starting by driving 55 yards for a touchdown when Whitlow ran the final yard for the touchdown, despite another goal line stand by Tech. Five minutes later, Bruno's 22-yard field goal capped a matching, 55-yard drive for a 17-3 lead. Again, the Tech defense stood tough inside the five.
Whitlow threaded a needle with a three-yard touchdown pass to Adam Drake five minutes later to finish an 84-yard scoring drive and make it 24-3 at the break.
Tech received the second-half kickoff and couldn't capitalize, so punter Jonathan King pinned the Panthers deep.
Still, that didn't slow the visitors, who got a 90-yard touchdown pass from Whitlow to Drake to make it 31-3 early in the second half.
Ladarius Vanlier had perhaps the play of the day for the Golden Eagles, spinning out of tackles three times to go 37 yards for Tech's only touchdown of the day. That made it 31-10 midway in the third quarter.
Once again, EIU systematically moved 66 yards for another touchdown, this time picking apart Tech 9-out-of-10 plays on the ground, and only one more than 10 yards. The final play was an eight-yard touchdown pass from Whitlow to Drake to make it 38-10.
The long run by Bruno that led to a field goal with 3:37 remaining capped the scoring.
Eastern Illinois finished with 598 yards of offense, getting 301 on the ground and 297 through the air. Tech had 150 rushing yards and 89 through the air for 239 yards of offense.
Freshman linebacker Trey Thompson and senior safety Austin Tallant led Tech with 11 tackles each. Thompson recovered a fumble, while Tallant forced a fumble. Senior Marty Jones and junior Jay Rudwall also hit double figures in tackles with 10 apiece. Rudwall grabbed his first interception of the season. Huguely finished with eight tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered one fumble.
Junior linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill topped EIU with 19 tackles, including four tackles-for-loss, and also intercepted a pass in the end zone to deny a Tech scoring chance.
The game was the start of a three-game home stretch for the Golden Eagles, who will host Southeast Missouri next week for Homecoming. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m., with the game t