By Todd Purvis/Sports editor
With the Eastern offense now firing from all cylinders, the Colonels are set to host OVC rival Eastern Illinois this Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.Last weekend, Eastern picked up its first win of the season off a double-overtime victory over the Samford Bulldogs. The Colonels come into the contest with a record of 1-3 and a conference mark of 1-1.
The Panthers are 2-2 on the year and have a conference record of 1-0. Last weekend, Eastern Illinois dropped the Indians of Southeast Missouri by a score of 35-28.
“They do a little bit of everything on offense,” Head coach Danny Hope. “They’re leading the league in offense. They score a lot of points and they’re a very hard team to defend.”
The series between the two conference foes dates back to 1947; however, the two teams have only played 11 times with the Colonels leading the all-time series 7-4. Last year, Eastern traveled to Eastern Illinois and routed the Panthers 41-0.
After missing a majority of the first half of the season due to a nagging shoulder injury, senior quarterback Matt Guice will get a chance to show hometown fans what he can do this weekend in his debut at Roy Kidd Stadium this season.
Last weekend, Guice led the Colonels air attack, as he threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
“With Guice back, the two ball clubs really match up well and it should be a heck of a football game,” Hope said.
Hauling in most of the passes for the Colonels this year is sophomore tight end Patrick Bugg. The Harrodsburg native averages 15.2 yards per reception and has found the end zone twice this season.
“Bugg has great speed, great hands and great receiver skills,” Hope said. “Any time he catches the ball, he is a threat to score.”
Also taking on the receiving duties is junior Andre Ralston. Ralston averages 13 yards per catch and has scored one touchdown this season.
The Colonels’ running attack will rely heavily on the play of senior running back C.J. Hudson. Hudson averages 4.3 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns this season. Hudson is coming off his best game of the season in last weekend’s 202-yard performance against Samford.
Eastern’s defense continues to shine this season, as it is led by junior linebacker Jerome Jones. Jones averages 11.8 tackles a game this season and has recorded one forced fumble and one blocked kick this season.
Senior linebacker Justen Rivers also leads the Colonel defense, as he averages 9.5 tackles a game and has recorded two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown.
Senior Pierre Wright, who averages 9.3 stops per game and has recorded three interceptions in four games this season, leads the Eastern secondary.
Panther quarterback Matt Schabert leads the Eastern Illinois passing game. Schabert has thrown for 739 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“Their quarterback is an outstanding player,” Hope said. “He’s been named OVC newcomer of the week twice this year.”
Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. this Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.
“Our defense is going to have to be diligent in alignment and assignment and offensively we’ll have to match up with their front. If we don’t, it could be a long day.
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