WCIA — Eastern Illinois made quite the impression in its season opener on Thursday against Northern Illinois, even with a 34-27 loss in the first game of the Chris Wilkerson era.

The Panthers had a chance to win it on the last play, and 27 points is their most against an FBS opponent since 2013. The players are not going to be celebrating the result, but feel like they put the FCS on notice.

“Like coach said, there’s no moral victories in what we did tonight,” running back Jaelin Benefield said. “Obviously, we want to come out with the win. We competed, came down to the wire, but I feel pretty comfortable where we at. And we learned a lot about our team going here on out throughout the season.”

“I think that showed that we can play with anybody in the nation,” safety Jordan Vincent said. “No matter who we line up against, we’re willing to compete with whoever.”

The Panthers host Chattanooga Saturday at 6 p.m.