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Stopping feisty quarterback is focus for Eastern Illinois
Coming off a loss to Big Ten opponent Northwestern, the Panthers will now turn to their first Ohio Valley Conference game of the year, taking on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at home.
Both teams enter their first OVC game of the year with a record of 1-1, with Tennessee Tech losing to Big Ten conference opponent Iowa 34-7, but defeating Maryville (Tenn.) 56-7 in week two.
The Panthers and the Golden Eagles have not squared off since the week seven of last year. The Panthers fell by a score of 34-20, allowing 17 unanswered points in the second half.
The last time Tennessee Tech visited O’Brien Field was in the 2009 season Eastern came away with a 23-15 victory.
The two most efficient passing quarterbacks in the OVC will go head to head in this match-up. Tennessee Tech’s Tre Lamb ranked No. 1 in OVC passing efficiency with a rating of 162.1 while averaging 175 yards per game.
Eastern’s sophomore quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is No. 2 in the OVC with a 158. 1 rating. Despite the No. 2 rating, Garoppolo is averaging more yards per game than Lamb, passing for an average of 256.5 yards over the team’s first two games of the season.
The Golden Eagles are 1-3 in OVC season openers since head coach Watson Brown has taken over the team. Since 2007, Eastern is 2-2 in OVC season openers under head coach Bob Spoo.
In last year’s game against Tennessee Tech, the Eastern running game was held to just 34 yards on the ground with running backs Jimmy Potempa and red-shirt junior Jake Walker.
Walker, who was injured in the team’s season opener against Illinois State, is questionable for the game against Tennessee Tech. Walker did not play in the game against Northwestern. Red-shirt freshmen running backs A.J. Woodson and Jimmy Lera both received touches in the game, with Woodson receiving the bulk of the carries.
The Tennessee Tech defense not only stopped the Eastern rushing attack, but also the passing game.
The Golden Eagle defense sacked quarterbacks Garoppolo and Brandon Large for a combined total of eight times. Large was sacked seven times, while Garoppolo was only brought down once. Marcus Edwards of Tennessee Tech led the defense, coming away with 4.5 of the eight sacks on Panther quarterbacks.
Spoo said his Panthers will be going up against a tough, experienced football team in Tennessee Tech.
“Watson (Brown) had done a great job of bringing those kids along,” he said. “They played Iowa, and they played them a lot tougher than we played Iowa the year before.”
Spoo also said that a factor will be the amount of experience Tennessee Tech has on the defensive side of the ball.
“At least defensively, they’re a veteran group,” Spoo said. “In terms of senior leadership, I think they’ve got six seniors and their seniors are tough. They’re a solid football team.”
To compliment its defense, Spoo said the team has it’s fair share of weapons on the offense as well.
“Their running back is for real, and I like the quarterback a lot,” he said. “He’s a feisty guy and he makes plays. Put those combinations together, with a big offensive line, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”
The Panthers and the Golden Eagles will face off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night at O’Brien Field.
By Dominic Renzetti, The Daily Eastern News