3 things we learned: Indiana State tips Eastern Illinois in Week Zero matchup
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Though Eastern Illinois showed progress from its recent one-win spring season, the Panthers lost 26-21 in their “Week Zero” road non-conference opener at Indiana State.
“Not the result we wanted. I’m getting really, really tired of saying that,” EIU head coach Adam Cushing said in a postgame Zoom conference. “But, there’s certainly some good things that happened out there today. Obviously, the offense moved the ball pretty darn well, (but) we turned the ball over and gave them points.”
Here are three things Prairie State Pigskin learned from Saturday’s loss in Terre Haute, Ind.
Penalties & turnovers tip the balance
While each team committed nine penalties, three Eastern turnovers proved to be difference makers.
The Panthers potentially lost points when freshman wide receiver Tyler Ringwood fumbled the ball away at the Indiana State 22-yard line after making a first down reception in the third quarter.
Ringwood led EIU with five catches for a game-high 116 yards, including a 61-yard reception.
After the Panthers had cut the deficit to 17-14, EIU suffered perhaps the game’s most costly turnover. Feeling inside pressure, freshman quarterback Otto Kuhns rushed his pass intended for running back Harrison Bey-Buie.
Kuhn’s pass deflected off Bey-Buie and wound up in the hands of Indiana State’s Michael Thomas, who returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
“With the safety at the end (the result of an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone), we gave them nine points on the scoreboard,” Cushing said.
2. The trials & tribulations of a young team
Eastern trailed the entire game, yet kept Indiana State — a veteran-heavy team with over 50 players who are fourth-, fifth- or sixth-year athletes — within striking distance until the game’s final plays.
The Panthers’ -3 turnover margin was a key factor in the loss. EIU was also a paltry 4-for-13 on third down.
Meanwhile, EIU’s defense held Indiana State to a 3-of-14 third down result.
“We had a strong effort on both sides of the football, but we didn’t do those little tiny things that add up to victory,” Cushing said.
Kuhns, making his fourth career start after three in the spring season, was a mixed bag of results. The Ohio native completed 14-of-29 passes for 253 yards but threw two interceptions. Kuhns gained 25 yards rushing and scored a touchdown but was sacked five times.
“The thing is he doesn’t get to be a freshman anymore. He’s the starting quarterback and he’s played five games,” Cushing said. “I think he played pretty darn well. There’s obviously things we’d like to have back . . . but overall I thought he gave us a great chance to win the football game.”
3. EIU suffered from slow starts in both halves
The Panthers began their fall season with a holding penalty on the first snap and followed by giving up a sack on third down.
EIU then allowed a touchdown on its first defensive series. Indiana State was aided by an Eastern face mask penalty on a fourth-and-one snap.
The Panthers managed just one first down and gained only 13 yards on 12 plays in the first quarter. Kuhns was sacked three times in the opening 15 minutes.
Indiana State scored on its opening drive of the second half when Michael Haupert broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat formation.
News & notes
Sophomore Jaelin Benefield, listed as a starter on the EIU depth chart earlier in the week, missed the game with an injury. As a result, the Panthers used the trio of Bey-Buie (57 yards, TD), Markenzy Pierre (46 yards) and Kendi Young (28 yards) in the backfield . . . Preseason all-Ohio Valley Conference linebacker Jason Johnson led EIU with eight tackles . . . defensive lineman Tim Varga was credited with three quarterback hurries . . . the Panthers did not record a sack . . . Transfer punter Logen Neidhardt averaged 43.3 yards per punt and forced two fair catches as well as putting one kick inside the Indiana State 20-yard line.
EIU (0-1) travels to Columbia, S.C. to play South Carolina of the SEC Saturday, Sept. 4.