CHARLESTON -- Through two games, the Eastern Illinois football team is in select company as only one of three teams with an undefeated Ohio Valley Conference record. After back-to-back wins over Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee State, the Panthers are 2-0 in the OVC, 3-2 overall, as they head into their home game against Tennessee Tech at 6 p.m. on Saturday at O'Brien Field. Austin Peay is 2-0 and Jacksonville State is 1-0.
Tech sits on the other end of the spectrum as the Golden Eagles are not only winless through two OVC games, but also 0-5 on the season. TSU is 0-2 in the OVC and Murray State is 0-1.
Statistically, it's not hard to see why the Golden Eagles are winless on the season since they've only scored 13.8 points per game and allowed 30.8 points a game. Tech is also last in turnover margin at a negative eight with nine interceptions and six fumbles lost on the season.
The numbers can be a big deceiving, though. In last week's loss to Jacksonville State, the Golden Eagles didn't turn the ball over. Even though Tech is only averaging 13.8 points per game, the Golden Eagles are tied for third in the OVC with 334.4 yards per game. So Tech can move the ball, but the Golden Eagles haven't been able to find the end zone.
"Where they've struggled, it's in the red zone to score points. They haven't been able to run the ball well and had to rely on the passing game to make yards," Dameron said. "(Wide receiver) Dontez Byrd is always dangerous and can take it to the house. They have a good group of wide receivers and tight ends. It's an offense that has the ability to get up and down the field and score points. They are a dangerous offense and the quarterback is getting better."
Tech is starting redshirt freshman Andre Sale at quarterback. Through five games, he is 96-of-157 passing for a 61.1 completion percentage. He has thrown for 1,188 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
After struggling to score points for the whole season, the Golden Eagles face an EIU squad that's only allowed 16 points in each of the last two games and six of those points came in two extra periods last week to TSU.
"I think they are very gap sound and keep the ball in front of them and make you earn it," Tech coach Marcus Satterfield said. "They are physical at the point of attack up front. They are athletic around the ball and fun to watch. Schematically, the coaches do a phenomenal job. They are figuring out what the opponent does well, takes it away and makes them left-handed."
Dameron has been happy with how the defense has played over the past couple of weeks.
"I feel like our guys understand what we are trying to accomplish defensively," Dameron said. "They are doing the things they can do because of our defensive line and we rotate 11 players there. (Defensive line coach) Kwahn Drake has done a fantastic job. We just line up and play and gave the kids the ability to do that. We are controlling the line of scrimmage."
The Golden Eagles defense might be what the EIU offense needs to see since the Panthers have only scored 19 points in each of the last two games, with nine points coming in the two extra periods last week. The Golden Eagles are allowing 30.8 points per game, but Satterfield has seen improvements out of his defense since making a chance a couple of weeks ago.
"I am really proud of the defense since we made the change. They've been an aggressive defense," Satterfield said. "We are giving up big plays that are touchdowns and if we can take those away, we can be really good. I like the direction we are going. Numbers can be deceiving."
Offensively, the Panthers need to get the passing game going. EIU only threw for 46 total yards in the win over TSU, but it was also only the second game that redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr. started. EIU will continue to rely on the run game, but Dameron does need to see some improvement out of the passing game with Mitch Kimble out with an injury.
"He will get better and better as he continues to play. We have to understand right now that we aren't going to go out and throw it around a bunch," Dameron said. "When we do, we have a dropped pass or a pass that isn't accurate. We need to do better, but to be honest, the things we are doing right now, we feel like we are trying to do what we need to win the game. I will say this, I will take the two W's."