EIU looks to burn out Graham scoreboard
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2012 12:00 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
If Eastern Illinois gets started, UT Martin might not be able to stop the Panthers.
EIU will likely be a tough homecoming opponent for the Skyhawks on Saturday, bringing in one of the nation’s most prolific offenses as first-year head coach Dino Babers tries to turn around the Panther football program.
Both teams come in with 3-2 overall records, Eastern at 2-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference and the Skyhawks at 1-1. Kickoff at Graham Stadium is set for 2 p.m.
With three wins, Eastern Illinois has already passed its win total from each of the past two seasons.
One reason is an offense that has been hard to stop.
The Panthers rank second in the nation with 400.6 passing yards per game and place third in both total offense and scoring offense with 522.8 yards and 47.2 points, respectively.
Last week’s 65-15 win over Austin Peay marked the third straight game the Panthers have put up 50-plus points, and it was also only the eighth time in school history to score 60 or more in a game.
The EIU offense is going as far as junior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can carry it. His 453 yards and five touchdowns — all for more than 50 yards — last week continued an outstanding start to the 2012 season.
Through five games, Garoppolo ranks second nationally in points responsible for (23.6/game), total offense (369.4 yards/game) and total passing yards (1,827 yards). He is third with 365.4 passing yards a game and fifth with 28.2 completions per contest.
“They are a replica of Baylor,” UTM head coach Jason Simpson said. “It’s a lot of bubble screens and spread the field. They had four receivers with over 100 yards last week. We’’ll have our hands full.”
Garoppolo already has 18 touchdown passes. He has a solid stable of receivers, led by Eric Lora who had his fifth straight game of 100-plus yards receiving. Chris Wright and freshman Keiondre Gober are solid targets as well.
The Skyhawk defense, which saw Eastern Kentucky rally from a 16-7 deficit with three touchdown passes last week, is capable of making enough stops to win.
UT Martin has the nation’s 19th ranked scoring defense at 18.4 points a game.
“Can we match them 50 points for 50? Probably not,” Simpson said. “It’s not how our offense is built. So, our defense has to step up and get the game down in the 30s.”
Still, UTM has the ability to show a balanced offense with quarterback Derek Carr leading the aerial game and a solid committee of running backs moving the chains and running the clock.
Carr set the school’s all-time career passing yards record last week with 223 yards, while senior Quentin Sims has 36 catches for 444 yards through five games.
Eastern owns a 12-5 series advantage. Published in The WCP 10.4.12