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EIU Head Coach Spoo: 'Pathetic performance'
Coach disappointed after dreadful game on Saturday
Bob Spoo sat in the conference room speechless, searching his memory for a game when a team played as bad as his did.
He couldn’t find one. Saturday was the worst.
Pathetic, he called his team’s performance. Saturday’s loss to Central Arkansas, 37-7, was one of the worst performances Spoo could remember.
Five turnovers. The Eastern football team was lucky that number didn’t reach eight.
The Panthers fumbled the ball six times, losing three of them. The special teams dropped the ball on the first two chances it had - on punt returns.
The ball wasn’t bouncing Eastern’s way, especially on the first punt return as the ball bounced off the chest of Panther senior cornerback Rashad Haynes and into the arms of Bear sophomore defensive back Desmond Wilcox.
Eastern red-shirt senior linebacker Sean Campbell intercepted the Bears’ next pass, keeping hope alive for Eastern.
But Panther freshman defensive back Pete Houlihan fumbled the next punt return, leading to a Central Arkansas field goal.
A flea flicker went awry when red-shirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Large dropped the toss back from senior running back Jimmy Potempa. This led to a Central Arkansas touchdown.
The next two times Eastern fumbled on special teams, they were able to recover the ball. But the ball had been on the turf one too many times already.
“The way the game started with the turnovers right off the bat, we weren’t able to overcome those,” Spoo said.
All of the turnovers piled up, and Eastern’s offense was barely able to sustain a drive, let alone get on the field.
Almost 10 minutes into the game, Eastern’s offense had snapped the ball four times, unsuccessfully. They lost a total of six yards on four plays.
On their next snap, Potempa broke a 52-yard run down the sideline, in front of the Eastern bench.
The long rush led to an Eastern touchdown. From the two-yard line, Large connected with red-shirt sophomore tight end Von Wise in the back of the endzone.
The touchdown made the game 10-7, but it would be Eastern’s only offensive highlight.
“We had an inability to generate offense,” Spoo said. “They got to us, they pressured us.”
Potempa’s 52-yard rush was a big chunk of Eastern’s 120 total yards on offense. He accounted for 92 of the Panthers’ total yardage.
Large was flustered all day. He felt the pressure of the defensive line, getting sacked six times and throwing two interceptions. Also, he fumbled three times.
The Bears’ defensive line had a field day. Large was more comfortable against Iowa, last week, than Saturday.
“That’s a different defensive line than Iowa has,” Large said. “They are much more of a run up the field line, where Iowa is a read defensive line.”
The blame doesn’t solely land on Large, though, or any one player Spoo said. The loss was due to an awful, team-wide performance.
“We were ineffective in so many areas,” Spoo said. “In all three phases we got outplayed.”
On offense, defense and special teams, Eastern had problems. In execution, blocking, tackling and turnovers the Panthers weren’t on their game.
“All the way around, we gotta get better,” Large said.
Especially with Ohio Valley Conference play starting next weekend, Spoo said, the Panthers are going to have to improve in all aspects of the game.
“If we don’t improve then it’ll be a long season,” Spoo said.
The Panthers will hit the road Saturday to play their first OVC game of the season against Tennessee-Martin at 6 p.m. in Martin, Tenn.
By Alex McNamee, The Daily Eastern News