3 things we learned: Miscues hamper Eastern Illinois, help South Carolina run away
September 4, 2021 at 11:18 pm
Eastern Illinois made more than its share of miscues early Saturday night.
The South Carolina Gamecocks made the Panthers (0-2) pay dearly.
A first-quarter interception, two blocked punts and another punt impacted by a heavy rush led South Carolina, a member of the Southeastern Conference, to 29 first-half points in a 46-0 demolition of Eastern in front of 64,868 fans.
“The bottom line is we beat the Panthers today, in a major way, and South Carolina took advantage and finished the job for us,” EIU head coach Adam Cushing said. “South Carolina made a bunch of big plays.”
Eastern’s miscues allowed South Carolina to a big early lead, while the Gamecocks ran 75 offensive plays to wear down the EIU defense.
“Our offense put them in a bad spot,” Cushing said. “They were on the field a ton.”
Meanwhile, Eastern’s offense – under the direction of first-time start Chris Katrenick, a transfer from Duke – managed only 109 yards of offense and nine first downs. The Panthers, who were without injured freshman QB Otto Kuhns, the season-opening starter, finished 0-for-9 on third downs.
“Otto was not full strength coming out of the (Indiana State) game last week, and he tried to practice but he just wasn’t himself,” Cushing said.
According to the Panther Radio Network, Kuhns was suffering from a shoulder injury, while Tyler Ringwood, the top EIU receiver in last week’s game, did not play against South Carolina because of a foot injury.
Here are three things Prairie State Pigskin learned about EIU’s loss:
Special teams stumbles
A relentless South Carolina punt rush in the first half led to a 20-yard kick by Logen Neidhardt, a block punt and a tipped punt. All three plays eventually turned into South Carolina touchdowns.
“We missed an assignment, to be honest,” Cushing said. “We made a mistake as players, then as coaches we didn’t make the final adjustment.”
The Gamecocks got pressure on Neidhardt multiple times before dialing back their rush.
2. Offensive stumbles
Eastern had only two drives of six or more plays and five drives of three or fewer plays.
Katrenick finished 13-for-22 passing for 78 yards and two interceptions. The average completion was for six yards.
The running game fared even worse as Eastern was held to 1.4 yards per carry against the Gamecocks. Leading rusher Harrison Bey-Buie finished with 12 yards on five carries.
“If we could just sustain a few more drives, our defense could give us a chance to win some football games,” Cushing said.
3. Feeling run down
Behind its big offensive line, South Carolina battered EIU with its run game, piling up 263 yards on the ground and averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Zaquandre White has 12 carries for 133 yards, including a 63-yard fourth-quarter scoring jaunt.
News and notes
Saturday marked the first time Eastern was shut out since 2019, when Cushing and his team lost a 52-0 decision at Indiana of the Big Ten Conference. … Freshman safety Jordan Vincent led all players with nine tackles in the game.
EIU travels to Dayton of the FCS Pioneer Football League for a noon game Sept. 11. The PFL is a non-scholarship conference.