CHARLESTON -- Eastern Illinois redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr. might be finding his footing. After starting three games earlier this season, Gilkey Jr. suffered an injury against Tennessee Tech and missed some time. He rotated with Bud Martin against UT Martin two weeks ago and he got the start this past week and played most of the game against Eastern Kentucky.

While the offense still had its struggles, Gilkey Jr. showed some progression. He didn’t turn the ball over and was 12-of-20 passing for 213 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 34 yards and a score.

The most important part, he helped lead the game-tying drive. With 32 seconds left, Gilkey Jr. hit Dennis Turner for a 19-yard pass. Then he hit Aaron Gooch in the middle of the field and it went for 22 yards. He capped it off with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Alexander Hollins with 2 seconds left to help send the game to overtime and EIU went on to win 23-20.

Gilkey was named the OVC Newcomer of the Week after his performance.

“I was really proud of him and the things that he did, both in the run and in the pass game,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said. “He didn’t throw it to (the other team). The biggest thing, that last drive, for a redshirt freshman to sit back, 19, 22 and 26 yards, with the time limits that we had on us, he should gain a lot of confidence and he’s done that now and I felt like he did take a big step forward and we will see how he continues to progress.”

EIU improves to 6-4 overall with the win, setting up a key matchup with Austin Peay in two weeks after the Panthers open week. Austin Peay could be 7-4 going into that game and Dameron is hoping the winner of the game will get an at-large playoff bid.

“Two years ago we were in the playoffs at 7-4. We definitely deserve to have two (teams) out of the Ohio Valley Conference,” Dameron said. “I know there’s some really good teams, but we have one of the best teams in our conference. Even though the score at the end doesn’t look like we played close (with Jacksonville State), we led them at halftime. I don’t see any reason why if we go down there and win, I don’t know why we shouldn’t receive any consideration for a playoff bid.”

No. 2 Jacksonville State (8-1, 6-0)

The Gamecocks were in Murray State’s backfield all game long in a 59-23 victory. JSU held Murray State to negative 3 yards rushing, forcing the Racers in a passing downs throughout the game.

JSU ended the game with four sacks and had 16 quarterback hits in the game.

“I think it goes back to situational football,” JSU coach John Grass said. “We got them into passing downs so we could put our ears back and go after him. It’s good to get that many hurries and sacks. You don’t know how games will go, but we want to get pressure and we did. Some of those were coverage sacks. It all works together and it’s good to get pressure on a team who throws the ball that many times.”

It was the third straight week when a tied was either tied or led JSU going into the second quarter. EIU led the Gamecocks at halftime three weeks ago. Southeast Missouri State was tied with JSU in the second quarter two weeks ago and Murray State had a 13-7 lead after the first quarter on Saturday.

Still, the Gamecocks pulled away in each contest and continued their OVC consecutive games streak, which stands at 29 OVC win in a row.

“I think it’s really helped us grow as a team and it shows the parity of the OVC. You have to come and play every week,” Grass said. “To be in those situations, it helps you. We’ve responded very well. Just play the next play and know every play counts. When you play every play that way, you play consistent.”

Austin Peay (6-4, 5-1)

Austin Peay got up 21-7 against Tennessee Tech in the third quarter when the Golden Eagles cut the lead to seven points. The Governors had a response. Then Tech cut it to 28-21 and Austin Peay had a response.

The Governors had a response for every Tech score and went on to win 35-28 on Saturday.

“That was the best point of the day and that was the most encouraging point,” Austin Peay coach Will Healy said. “We knew how good they were and (Tech) had a tremendous plan on how to attack our defense. For our offense to respond, that was a big deal. We ran the ball extremely well and we didn’t have Kentell (Williams). It was more running back by committee. We ran well, controlled the clock and created big plays and they were the difference in the game.”

The Governors did commit 10 penalties in the game and six of them were false start penalties.

“We have to be more disciplined and understand what we have to do. It’s a focus thing,” Healy said. “We had a late hit on the quarterback and the false starts hurt us. That hit was idiotic. That’s not how we are going to play football. False starts, we have to be a disciplined enough team to use the snap count to our advantage.”

UT Martin (5-4, 3-3)

Dresser Winn’s first action at quarterback a few weeks ago didn’t go well as the true freshman threw a couple of interceptions. Two weeks ago, he split time with Troy Cook and helped lead UT Martin to a win over Eastern Illinois.

This week, Winn saw the full time under center and was 12-of-23 passing for 224 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 61 yards.

Winn helped lead the Skyhawks down the field and they made a field goal with 1 second left to get the 16-14 win over Southeast Missouri State.

Winn was named the OVC Newcomer of the Week.

“We are certainly excited about his future here,” UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. “The thing everyone has to remember, he wasn’t the backup for the first six games. He was enjoying his redshirt and working hart, but you could see the plays on scout team. The first game, he turned the ball over, but he made some plays. Second game he made some plays and split time. This time, he was a lot more comfortable and had plays designed for him and he did an outstanding job.”

Now UT Martin faces Jacksonville State on Saturday. Third downs will be important as always and UT Martin has only allowed teams to convert 27 percent of their third downs. JSU has converted 47 percent of their third downs.

Tennessee State (4-4, 1-4)

TSU wide receiver Patrick Smith has been putting up big games the last two weeks. He has six total touchdowns in the last two games and went over 100 yards in both contests.

TSU coach Rod Reed said the team is making a better effort of getting Smith the ball.

“It’s a combination of two things. Michael Hughes maturing a bit at the quarterback spot, settling in and finding receiver down the field more,” Reed said. “Some of the plays were there, we just weren’t getting him the ball. We have to find ways to do that. The run game has to improve to open up things on the outside. Everybody knows how explosive Patrick can be. Hopefully he can cap these games off with some good finishes.”

TSU beat Virginia-Lynchburg, a non-countable opponent. TSU scheduled the Dragons after an FCS team backed out on them. The Tigers are 4-4 on the season, but only one win has come in Ohio Valley Conference play.

TSU does have an FBS win over Georgia State, which has five wins on the season, but the Tigers other two FCS non-conference opponents, Jackson State and Florida A&M, only have four overall wins combined.

Reed still thinks his team’s non-conference schedule helps prepare the team for OVC play.

“We lost to EIU in double overtime in a game that could’ve gone either way. We had a lead against Austin Peay and the same way with (Tennessee) Tech,” Reed said. “Turnovers and penalties have plagued us. I think our schedule is fine. We’ve been our own worst enemy this year.”

Eastern Kentucky (3-6, 3-4)

EKU took the lead with 37 seasons left against Eastern Illinois with a touchdown. However, the Panthers drove down and tied the game, forcing overtime. EIU took a 23-20 lead in the first possession of overtime and EKU took a shot to try and win the game right away.

Tim Boyle tried to hit a receiver down the right sideline, but EIU defensive back Bradley Dewberry read the play and made the game-clinching interception.

“The kid made a really nice play on the ball. They made the play to win it and we missed our opportunity on that one,” EKU coach Mark Elder said. “(Dewberrry), he is a really good player and one of the better players in the conference. They found a way to make it happen and that’s why they won.”

Southeast Missouri State (2-7, 2-4)

Even though the Redhawks gave up 420 total yards to UT Martin on Saturday, they kept the Skyhawks out of the end zone for much of the game.

However, the Skyhawks did have a final drive left in them and they went 51 yards in six plays and Mitch Mersman hit a 22-yard field goal with a second left to give UT Martin a 16-13 win.

“We didn’t play well between the 20’s. In the middle of the field, they got a lot of yardage,” SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz said. “We played well in the red zone and turned them over a couple of times and forced a couple of missed field goals. We have to learn to win as a team. All three phases have to be firing to win tight margins.”

Murray State (2-7, 1-4)

Through one quarter, Murray State had the upset alert going with a 13-7 lead against No. 3 Jacksonville State. The alert went away quickly in the second quarter. JSU outscored the Racers 21-0 in the second quarter and added 10 more unanswered points in the third quarter to run away with the game.

Part of the reason was the pressure JSU got on Murray State. The Gamecocks had four sacks and 16 quarterback hits.

“We just got overwhelmed with some of their personnel,” Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said. “We had more quarterback hurries in one game than all year. We tried to do some things to neutralize them and we got overwhelmed in the pass and run game. With all the things that have happened with our team, all of the personnel losses, I had an awful lot of pride seeing how our team competed against a talented bunch like that.”

Tennessee Tech (1-8, 1-5)

The Golden Eagles were able to battle back from a 21-7 deficit to score against Austin Peay. But then the Governors scored to go back up by 14. Tech scored again to cut it to seven, but Austin Peay made it a 14-point game again and went on to win 35-28.

“We’ve got to get them off the field and we didn’t do that on third down,” Tech coach Marcus Satterfield said. “(Austin Peay’s) quarterback is a talented player and extended plays and willed them to first downs when the play broke down. They had a tremendous plan against us. We couldn’t stop them and it was an impressive showing by their staff and team.”

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Sports writer

Mike Monahan covers area sports for the JG-TC.

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