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Stronger EIU Panthers show their running game
When coach Dino Babers talked about the fact his staff had more men benching more than 300 pounds than the football team last year, this wasn’t just all in fun bragging.
“We still hear about it,” offensive tackle Dominic Pagliara said. “From last season through the winter I put on about 25 pounds.”
That was one of Babers’ goals for his team that is now showing more physicality adding to last year’s pass record-setting passing attack.
The Panthers running game showed the benefits in Saturday morning’s scrimmage at the rugby field a week before the intrasquad game that is to conclude spring practices.
“I was really proud of the offensive line,” Babers said. “Any time you can have those long runs: A.J. (Woodson) had a long run, Bobby Huey had a long run, Shep (Shepard Little) had a long run and Taylor Duncan had a long run. Any time you get those it can be real discouraging to the defense.”
Woodson had the long run of the day of 65 yards as part of his eight carries for 114 yards plus a 13-yard touchdown reception.
Duncan rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries including an 11-yard touchdown. Little had 58 yards on eight carries with a 33-yard touchdown. Bobby Huey had 51 yards on nine carries with another 53 yards on four receptions.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was 22-for-35 for 241 yards with one touchdown pass on the second offensive series to Erik Lora.
Lora, who set an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record of 136 catches last season, in the spring is not being asked to be the constant target he was last year or may be again this coming season.
“We’re looking at other guys,” Babers said. “You have to remember it’s live. We’re going to protect him. We’re not going to call his number every time.”
Keiondre Gober had the big day on the receiving corps with nine catches for 154 yards. Back-up quarterback Ben Krol passed for 166 yards going 17-of-25.
The defense also had its moments forcing and recovering two fumbles, breaking up eight passes and recording five sacks.
One of the pass break-ups was by D.J. Bland on a fourth and goal pass in the end zone.
While Babers was glad to see the defense create fumbles, he also let that be an emphasis for the offense to correct and that includes more than just the ball carrier who lost possession.
“The offense needs to be around the ball carrier all the time,” Pagliara said.
Center Nick Borre said: “Fundamentally we played a sound game today. We ran the ball well and did a good job of protecting the ball carriers. We can still improve and make sure we are around the pile so if fumbles happen, we can be there to recover the ball.”
Borre, a redshirt freshman, is moving into the vacated center position.
After playing back up center, the game has slowed down more for me now,” he said. “I’m seeing the linebackers.”
Pagliara said, “I felt he had talent but now he’s putting it together.”
Borre is also part of a line becoming more physical.
“We cut out some conditioning to put on more weight,” he said.
That was the coach’s order and Babers is seeing good results.
“The collisions sound different now,” Babers said. “I think that’s good from when the coaching staff had more guys benching 300 than the players.”
The work is not yet done.
Eastern has four more allotted practices before the spring game scheduled for noon Saturday.
“I think it’s real important our guys can get good practices in Sunday and Monday before the rain on Tuesday,” Babers said. “We need to get those in. We need all the help we can get.”
BY BRIAN NIELSEN, Journal Gazette/ Times-Courier