Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking a look at Eastern Illinois

This is a big game this weekend. Never mind that JSU is 3-0 and Eastern Illinois is 0-3. The records will not matter on Saturday. Both teams know what's on the line. The winner of this game has gone on to win the OVC or make the playoffs in 6 of the previous 7 meetings. JSU was the favored team last season and played at Paul Snow Stadium. Eastern Illinois came in and upset the Gamecocks. Here's what to look for this weekend.

Eastern Illinois is a desperate team. They are 0-3, but more importantly, 0-1 in the OVC. A loss this Saturday to JSU would give the Panthers an 0-2 conference record, and make it almost certain that the conference title is out of reach for them. If they lose, JSU would have to lose 3 conference games to open the door again for the Panthers.

Eastern Illinois offense has struggled. They haven’t scored in the second half all season. EIU did get Florida transfer, RB Mon Williams, back from injury recently, and he is expected to see more action this week, giving them a boost to their running game. Also at RB/WR is senior Jimmy Potempa, a Michigan transfer. Potempa loves to run an end around type play out of EIU's pistol formation. In the passing game, look for them to go to WR Erik Lora, who caught 11 passes for 102 yards last week vs. UT-Martin.

On defense, watch out for linebacker Nick Nasti. He’s leading the team in tackles, and has a pretty cool name for a linebacker. When the two teams played last season, Nasti led EIU in tackles that afternoon with 9.

Gamecock Illustrated sees two “keys to the game”. First – third down conversions. Eastern Illinois is only 5-of-37 on converting 3rd down to 1st down this season. The JSU defense must keep them at that low conversion rate. Last week, Ga State showed some success in converting on 3rd down. Expect EIU to change some things as they look for success. Our defense must step up on 3rd down and as Coach Stewart preaches: "Get off the field!"

Second – special teams. Last year, JSU had some young guys on the kicking teams, and it hurt. EIU successfully pulled off an onside kick to start the second half. JSU fumbled a punt return. EIU returned a kickoff for a touchdown. On top of that, the Gamecocks missed an extra point. Watch out for Lorence Ricks, EIU’s kick returner. He is second in the conference right now, averaging 28.7 yards per return, and had a 69 yard return vs. Central Arkansas.

Third, both teams have had lots of injuries to their offensive lines. A key to the game will be which team can overcome adversity and establish a running game. JSU is missing two, maybe three projected starters, and EIU is missing two starting offensive linemen. Depth may be an issue, and we’ll be watching to see who adjusts best.

In sum, if the Gamecocks can put pressure on their QB, it could be a long day for EIU. Conversely, if special teams play goes again in their favor, it may be a long day for JSU. Don’t let the records fool you, Jacksonville State must do more than just show up this week. Paraphrasing former Alabama coach Mike Dubose: "This game presents a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity." Go get em Gamecocks.

No comments:

Post a Comment