EIU has been down for a couple of years. Some fans may be expecting an easier game because of that.
Not so fast. Under new head coach, Dino Babers, EIU is putting up staggering offensive numbers and has played well against stiff competition. If the Gamecocks manage to pull this one out, it will be a great road win.
Here is a quick review of EIU's season:
Week 1- A twenty-one point win over Southern Illinois. Since then, Southern Illinois has wins over SEMO, Missouri State and Illinois State.
Week 2- A thirty point loss to FCS Western Michigan. Probably EIU's worst loss of the season.
Week 3- a three point loss to Illinois State. This is one of EIU's most impressive performances. Illinois State only has one loss on the year and a win over FCS Eastern Michigan.
Week 4- a one point win over Murray State in a 50-49 overtime shootout.
Week 5- a fourteen point loss to a really good UT Martin team that has a win over Memphis. Here is the rest of the story: EIU turned it over 5 times and outgained Martin by almost three hundred yards.
EIU has not done much defensively, but they are solid against Jacksonville State's strenth- the run. EIU's apparent weakness is against the pass, where most opponents have feasted on their defense. Tennessee Tech's primary weakness was pass defense as well, but the Gamecocks stayed primarily with the run- perhaps because they were missing Alan Bonner and Gabriel Chambers. It remains to be seen whether these two playmakers will be ready to go this week.
EIU's offensive numbers are off the charts and most of that offense runs thru two players, quarterback Jimmy Garopollo and receiver Erik Lora. Will the Gamecocks employ the same defense they used to slow Da' Rick Rogers down? While Lora is tough, JSU has two bona fide cover corners in Rashod Byers and true freshman, Junior Hough.