By Rich Moser
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of www.eiupanthers.com
CHARLESTON, IL. — Eastern Illinois forced seven turnovers including interceptions on the first three Tennessee Tech possessions of the game as the Panthers corralled the Golden Eagles, 51-20, on Saturday afternoon at O’Brien Field.
EIU converted those turnovers into 24 points including an interception return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Jarvis Williams.
EIU improved to 4-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference and moved over .500 for the first time this season at 4-3. The win came as EIU was celebrating the 100th homecoming weekend on campus. TTU fell to 2-6, 1-4 in the OVC.
Jared Davis started at quarterback for TTU returning from a hand injury suffered earlier this season. Bradley Dewberry picked off a Davis pass on the first play of the game.
EIU converted that interception into a Shepard Little five yard touchdown with 13:14 to play in the first quarter. It was the first of four rushing touchdowns by the EIU offense, two of them scored by Little.
EIU’s defense again made a play on the first play of TTU’s second offensive possession as Seth McDonald picked off a pass.
EIU would miss a field goal attempt on that turnover as a heavy south wind effected kicking all day.
On the Golden Eagles third possession they had two runs by Ladarius Vanlier for 26 yards.
On the third play Davis took to the air again with Kamu Grugier-Hill picking off the pass at the TTU 48.
The Panthers converted that turnover into a field goal by Nick Bruno from 30 yards as the Panthers led 10-0 with 10:04 to play. Grugier-Hill had eight solo tackles with one sack, one interception and three tackles for loss.
It was his second straight year with a big game against TTU, last year in Cookeville he had 19 tackles with four tackles for loss.
The three turnovers did not discourage Tennessee Tech early on as the Golden Eagles tied the game at 10-10 with a Dorian Carter 2-yard run and John Arnold 44-yard field with 9:07 to play in the second quarter.
Tennessee Tech’s second score was set up by an EIU turnover as Stephen Bush recovered a fumble.
EIU led 17-10 at the half scoring with 5:34 left in the half as Jalen Whitlow connected with James Brooks.
Brooks was playing his first game of the season for EIU finishing the day with three catches for 21 yards. He also had a run for 17 yards.
After TTU closed to within four points on an Arnold field goal with 13:13 to play in the third, EIU put the game away with 27 straight points, the final score in that run coming as Austin Green hit Paul Gossage for a 33-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 6:15 to play in the game.
Jarvis Williams 24-yard interception return came at the start of the fourth quarter while Jourdan Wickliffe had the Panthers fifth interception of the game. The pick by Wickliffe moved the senior into a tie for eighth on the EIU career list with 11 interceptions.
A fumbled punt recovery late in the third quarter was capped by Little’s second rushing touchdown of the game with 1 minute left in the third quarter.
Little had 10 carries for 39 yards and two scores as the Panthers had three players with 10 rushes and a total of seven players carried the ball.
Malik Harrison finished with 123 yards most of it coming with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter as he sprung loose for an 83-yard score. It was tied for the sixth longest touchdown in school history.
TTU played three quarterbacks in the game with Colby Brown the most effective going 7-of-15 for 115 yards. Brock McCoin was the top receiver with three catches for 88 yards.
EIU also played three quarterbacks with Whitlow, Green and Jared Pilson seeing time.
Whitlow was 15-of-23 for 160 yards. It was the third straight game that EIU’s offensive line has not allowed a quarterback sack.
McDonald and Fedney Delphonse led the Panthers defense with nine tackles each.
Maleek Hall had nine tackles with two tackles for loss to lead TTU.