Eastern Illinois and Murray State have both had their issues at quarterback this season. Going into Saturday's contest, which starts at 3 p.m. at Murray State, EIU has used three different quarterbacks, and the Racers have used two different quarterbacks.
After starting the first three games of the season for EIU, Mitch Kimble has missed the past three because of an injury. EIU coach Kim Dameron doesn't expect Kimble back for a bit. Redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr. started the last three games but was knocked out of the game against Tennessee Tech at halftime because of an injury.
Junior Bud Martin stepped in and proceeded to throw for three touchdowns and 204 yards as EIU won its third straight game to improve to 4-2 overall and 3-0 on the season.
It's not quite known if Gilkey or Martin will start on Saturday, though.
"We are going to play the one that's healthy and can show up," Dameron said. "We are going into the week with Bud and Scotty, and if Scotty is healthy and gets to practice, he will be a guy that is ready to go. I look at the quarterback spot like every position and see who will compete and have the best week of practice. Bud is healthy and I hope Scotty is available to have a number of reps. He is a tough kid, and we could see both of them."
That makes Murray State coach Mitch Stewart's job tougher. Gilkey and Martin are both different quarterbacks. Gilkey is 6-4, 235 pounds and has been a dangerous runner this season, but he can still throw the deep ball. Martin is more of a passer and looks for intermediate to deep routes, based on his touchdown throws of 43, 10 and 10 yards.
"They can run about every quarterback imaginable at you, and they've shown the ability for the big play," Stewart said. "The defense philosophy is always the same. Limit the run and limit the big play. We are going to try to kill the runs and keep the passes in front of us. The biggest thing defensively that we are doing is the turnover margin and taking the ball away. We will continue to be okay."
Murray State will be playing without two of its top defensive backs. Dylan Boone and Zachary Wade were both ruled ineligible. Boone had two interceptions this season and Wade had 30 tackles.
While the passing game wasn't shored up offensive completely for the Racers last week, it was good enough to knock off No. 25 UT Martin 13-10 to improve to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the OVC. Shuler Bentley, who missed a couple of games because of an injury, threw for 243 yards and a touchdown. He was 15-of-25 passing with an interception.
Freshman Corey Newble started in Bentley's place but only threw one pass last week for 7 yards. Still, Stewart expects to play both quarterbacks on Saturday.
"We will keep Shuler back there while he is healthy, but we will continue to mess around with Corey," Stewart said. "If you have a guy that talented, the last thing I want him to do is hold onto the Gatorade bottle. We have to figure out ways to put him back there. One thing is for sure, he will see the field.
"Shuler is a cerebral kid and he's been around the game all of his life. He knows football and comes in and grasps the gameplan quickly. There's just a comfort level for him."
Both quarterbacks face an EIU defense that has picked up its production the past few weeks. The Panthers held Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee State to 19 points each, and Tennessee Tech was held to 23 points last week with only nine points in the second half.
EIU has 13 turnovers gained for the season to rank 15 in the FCS and second in the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State leads the OVC with 14 turnovers gained.
The Panthers finished last week's game with five sacks, three coming on three straight plays. It was the first time since Nov. 10, 2012 that EIU had five or more sacks in a game. The Panthers have 12 sacks on the season.
"They are tough. Dameron is a defensive guy, and they are going to be well coached and a good team," Stewart said. "They have good linebackers and their front with their defensive line are as good as I've seen. They can swallow you up and it will be very tough. Nothing will come easy."