EIU Claims Wins, Illini Drop First Game


Published on September 16 2013 2:10 pm
Last Updated on September 17 2013 10:43 am
Written by Millie Lange

CHARLESTON, Ill. – On a night in which Eastern Illinois set three records, the Panthers picked up a lopsided 57-24 victory over Illinois State in the 102nd playing of the Mid-America Classic.  The 57 points were the most by the Panthers in the rivalry game topping last year’s 51 points.

EIU, ranked No. 9 in this week’s FCS poll, improved to 3-0.  ISU which was ranked as high as No. 16 fell to 0-2.

Erik Lora started the series of records as he caught his third pass midway through the second half moving into first place on the OVC career receptions list.   Lora finished with ten catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

Jimmy Garoppolo tied the school record in the first half with his sixth touchdown pass connecting with Lora for 13 yards with 4:49 left to play in the half.  Garoppolo nearly set the school record on the Panthers final drive of the half as EIU settled for a Cameron Berra 38-yard field goal as time expired to lead 44-10.

Garoppolo would get the school record in the second half hitting Lora again from seven yards out with 13:55 left to play.  He now stands alone in the record books passing Jeff Christensen and Tony Romo’s mark of six.

Garoppolo joked after the game about how Christensen, his former high school quarterback coach, sent him a text about breaking the record.

“It was pretty cool to break two records in one night,” said Garoppolo on his and Lora’s individual accomplishments.  “Jeff Christensen sent me a text congratulating me on breaking his school record after the game.   I didn’t even know it had happened until someone on the sideline tapped me on the shoulder and told me what we just did.”

The biggest number was posted by the Panthers entire offensive unit as they amassed 739 yards of total offense, throwing for 491 and rushing for 248.  That number broke the previous school record of 683 set by Sean Payton and company against Winona State back in 1986.

Garoppolo finished his day 26-of-41 for 480 yards and seven touchdowns.  His long pass was an 86-yard strike to Keiondre Gober with four seconds left in the first quarter which put EIU up 27-7.  Garoppolo also hit Lora for a 63-yard strike in the first quarter.

Shepard Little paced the running game with 129 yards on seven carries including a 73-yard touchdown run in the second half.  Adam Drake caught 11 passes for 176 yards and two scores.

Illinois State actually opened the game with a lead as the Redbirds marched 64 yards and scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jared Barnett to Anthony Warrum.  EIU’s defense then clamped down as the Panthers forced four turnovers – three interceptions and one forced fumble and recovery by Jourdan Wickliffe as an ISU receiver was about to score from the two-yard line.

The Redbirds tacked on two second half touchdowns by Cameron Meredith as EIU stuffed the ISU run game limiting them to 115 yards on 36 carries.

“Our team was locked in for this game,” said head coach Dino Babers.  “Our defense forced four turnovers which just gave our offense four extra chances to try and score.  I have never seen a team this focused for a game.  Jimmy (Garoppolo) was a master tonight.  He just took the ball and ran with it tonight.  I keep telling you guys he is a really good player who you will see playing on Sunday’s next year.”

The Panther defense was led by former Redbird Pat Wertz who recorded six tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks.   LeQuince McCall had a team high seven tackles and one interception.

EIU returns to action next Saturday at 6 p.m. at Northern Illinois.  NIU is 2-0 after a win at Idaho.  The game has been picked up to air on ESPN3.

Eastern Illinois senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was named the Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season following the Panthers impressive 57-24 victory over Illinois State on Saturday night in the Mid-America Classic.

Garoppolo set the EIU single game record for touchdown passes with seven as he passed for 480 yards going 26-of-41.  Garoppolo broke the record of six previously held by Jeff Christensen (1982 vs. Kentucky State) and Tony Romo (2000 vs. Murray State).  Garoppolo had six touchdown passes in the first half which included long touchdown strikes to Keiondre Gober (86 yards) and Erik Lora (63 yards).  His 7-yard pass to Lora with 13:55 left in the fourth quarter set the record on a night in which Garoppolo passed Sean Payton as the Panthers career leader in pass completions at EIU.  He also moved past Payton on the EIU career touchdown pass list and now has 79.  Tony Romo holds both the EIU and OVC record for career touchdown passes with 85.

Garoppolo helped the Panthers offense post a school record 739 yards of total offense as they jumped out to a 44-10 lead over the Redbirds in the first half.  Garoppolo is currently first in the nation in passing yards and second in the nation in total offense.  He won the award earlier this season after leading the Panthers to a win at FBS member San Diego State.


Illini Suffer First Loss of Season

By Lexi Shurilla, fightingillini.com staff writer

Illinois was handed their first loss of the season against the Washington Huskies on Saturday at Soldier Field. The Illini pulled within a touchdown with 9:10 remaining, but UW tacked on a field goal after a four-minute drive to seal the 34-24 Huskies' win.

"Obviously, any time you go out there, you're trying to win a ball game," quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. "That was definitely a very winnable game for us, and anytime you walk off the field without that win, there's something missing and you're walking off the field with not all that you wanted. I am proud of how our guys fought out there."

Although many expected the game to be a shootout, both offenses were scoreless in the first quarter of the game. Illinois' Mason Monheim and Jonathan Brown led the defense in holding the Huskies in a stalemate long into the first half.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Huskies got on the scoreboard with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Keith Price to Bishop Sankey with 11:09 left in the first half.

But Illinois fought back quickly, as Scheelhaase threw a 28-yard pass to Ryan Lankford, and a personal foul on the Huskies pushed the Illini to the UW 22 yard line. Scheelhaase threw up two passes into the end zone that slipped through the Illini's fingers, forcing UI to settle for a 40-yard Taylor Zalewski field goal.