Eastern Illinois embracing challenge to turn program around


CHARLESTON (WCIA) — When the Eastern Illinois football team reflects on the unusual Spring season, two games stick out in particular: the ones they lost from winning positions.

“That hurt, that pain of not being able to finish games in the last second half, last quarter last seconds even,” says Jaelin Benefield. “When it comes to finishing that’s really our big focus right now.”

The Panthers will be looking to forget the recent past. They’ve only won two games over the last two seasons. But the short turnaround from the spring season may have been a benefit to the young team acclimating to the college game.

“Guys have heard the install before,” says head coach Adam Cushing. “When we call something in, when we signal something from the sideline they know what it is and it allows them to play faster. That’s what we see the biggest difference is.

The quarterback battle is still raging for the Panthers with a handful of guys still with a chance to lock down QB1. Cushing says he doesn’t know yet which one will take the reins, but the guy has to be able to make his teammates better.

“That means have some calmness, have some courage, have some communication, so that everybody can settle in and play fast,” says Cushing. “Everyone does that when when the guy that supposed to be in charge is actually in charge.”

Opening kickoff for EIU is just three weeks away, and the team is antsy for the chance to renew their local rivalry in Terre Haute with Indiana State.

“I remember playing them my Freshman year, and it was such a getable game,” says sophomore defensive lineman Tim Varga. “I know we can beat them.”

The Panthers will also travel to South Carolina and Dayton before their home opener Saturday, September 18th against Illinois State.

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