3 things we learned: Once again, Murray State knocks off Eastern Illinois
today at 4:14 pm
In pattern all too familiar, Eastern Illinois failed to produce on offense in the second half of a close game and lost.
This time around, EIU lost to a very familiar opponent — a foe the Panthers were defeated by for the third time since late March.
With the score tied at halftime, Murray State scored on its opening drive of the second half and held off EIU for a 20-13 win.
The defeat end Eastern’s season with a 1-10 overall record. After starting its Ohio Valley Conference schedule with a win, EIU wound up 1-5 in the league. The Panthers lost six straight.
Murray State finishes the season at 6-5 overall and 3-3 in the OVC. The Racers defeated the Panthers 22-6 on Oct. 2 in a game that was listed as a non-conference contest because of the unbalanced league since the departures of Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State this past off-season.
In the conference-only spring schedule, Murray State defeated EIU 41-27. That game was played on March 28 in the conference-only spring schedule.
Here’s three things Prairie State Pigskin learned from Saturday’s game at O’Brien Field in Charleston.
EIU struggles to put two halves together
For the fifth straight game, the Panthers were very much in a game at halftime.
After tying the score at 13-13 on a Stone Galloway field goal near the end of the second quarter, EIU’s offense played a stagnant second half.
The Panthers managed just 45 yards on 12 plays in the third quarter going into a stiff wind.
Meanwhile, Murray State sustained just enough on its offensive possessions and continually pinned Eastern’s offense with punts that placed the ball deep in Panther territory.
Saturday marked the fourth time this season that EIU was shut out in the second half. The Panthers averaged a meager 6.7 points per game in the second half on the season.
EIU produced only 74 net rushing yards on 26 attempts. The Panthers averaged 2.8 yards per carry.
Receiver Isaiah Hill was the bright spot for the Panthers. Despite missing much of the season with injuries, the redshirt junior caught a game-high 13 passes for 110 yards.
2. A costly turnover changed the game
The Panthers wasted a golden opportunity to tie the game in the third quarter.
EIU linebacker Jason Johnson — the OVC’s leading tackler — recovered a Murray State fumble at the 9:49 mark. That set EIU up at the Murray State 32.
After converting a 4th-and-3 on a Chris Katrenick-to-Hill sideline pass, the Panthers used runs by Harrison Bey-Buie and Hill to set up a second-and-goal inside the Murray State 1-yard line.
Lined up in the shotgun formation, Bey-Buie took a direct snap, bobbled it and then fumbled the ball. Murray State recovered at the three.
EIU mounted a final drive, mostly on short passes, but turned the ball over on downs at the Murray State 32. On fourth down, Eastern successfully picked up a blitz but Katrenick overthrew Hill in coverage down the middle of the field.
3. QB questions continue going into 2022
Freshman Otto Kuhns made the majority of starts for EIU this fall. However, the Ohio native also missed time with injuries. Kuhns completed 93-of-200 passes (46.5 percent) for six touchdowns in nine games. He threw 10 interceptions.
Late in the week, Kuhns announced on Twitter that he was leaving EIU via the transfer portal.
Thus, Katrenick started Saturday’s game. The Algonquin native and Duke transfer completed 24-of-42 passes for 216 yards against Murray State. He was sacked once.
Though he has one year of eligibility remaining, Katrenick has a Duke degree in hand and is most likely not returning to EIU.
If that’s the case, the Panthers will return only one quarterback with game experience, freshman Zach Weir. In four games this fall, Weir completed 32-of-66 throws (48.5 percent) for 386 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted four times.
News & notes
Jason Johnson, who entered Saturday as the nation’s 14th leading tackler, was credited with 12 stops against Murray State. Johnson had two tackles for loss . . . Hill led Eastern with 39 receptions for 493 yards (12.6 per catch) in just five games . . . Bey-Buie ends the season as EIU’s leading rusher with 479 yards on 132 carries (3.6 per attempt). He becomes the second straight freshman to lead the Panthers in that category during a fall season . . . Kicker Stone Galloway made his last four field goal attempts, including two in Saturday’s loss . . . Murray State kicker Aaron Baum was 9-for-9 on field goal attempts in the three games against EIU since March. Baum had two 58-yard field goals in that stretch . . . Murray State running back Damonta Witherspoon, a redshirt freshman from East St. Louis, rushed for a game-high 135 yards, 119 of which came in the first half.
Eastern Illinois opens its 2022 season Sept. 3 in DeKalb against FBS member and Mid-American Conference West champion Northern Illinois.