TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- There’s a reason the Eastern Illinois football team practices the 2-minute drill every practice.
Mistakes hurt EIU and the Panthers and after leading for most of the game, they found themselves down 20-16 with 1:52 left.
Then everything started to come together for the Panthers. After gaining only 36 total yards up to that point, EIU quarterback Mitch Kimble led EIU down the field. With 8 seconds left and the ball at the ISU 15-yard line, Dennis Turner broke free of his defender and Kimble hit him in the middle of the end zone for the game winning touchdown.
Despite all of the mistakes, EIU left Memorial Stadium with a 22-20 win over Indiana State.
“We practice 2 minute a lot and we actually had more time on the clock than we are used to practicing with, so that helped,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said. “Really proud of the way they stayed in there and kept fighting. … We did a lot of things to hurt ourselves, too many drops, too many penalties, too many mental errors. … We are excited about this victory.”
Kimble finished the game 27-of-44 with 204 yards and a touchdown. A little over one-third of those yards came on the final drive along with the touchdown.
Even with the offensive struggles throughout the game, Kimble knew the offense had the game-winning score in them.
“That little bit of pressure at the end, we were ready for that, we practice two minute drills,” Kimble said. “We weren’t executing most of the game, small mistakes that we will get worked out and fixed for next week. At the end there, we knew what we to do and what plays to run. We just executed there and it was a lot of fun.”
EIU drove down to the 25-yard line with 30 seconds left when Kimble was sacked. He got right up and fired a pass to Alexander Hollins along the sideline. Hollins reached up to catch the pass while keeping his foot on the ground. He fell out of bounds to stop the clock.
“It was big, it was huge,” Dameron said. “Allie B made plays all night long. We are going to continue to try and get him the ball.”
Turner had a couple of drops in key situations in the game. Kimble still had full faith in Turner and knew the senior would haul in the game-winning score.
“I have a ton of faith in him and he will be alright,” Kimble said. “I am not worried about him at all. I see him every day and the drops he had today, he never drops those. He will be alright, I believe it.”
Dameron said Turner redeemed himself at the right time.
“Dennis Turner’s catch the last play of the game couldn’t be any better,” Dameron said. “That was a heck of a throw and catch. We are hoping he continues to make big plays when we need him.”
The drive happened after EIU gave the Sycamores the ball back with a punt with about four minutes left. Indiana State drove the ball down to the EIU 35-yard line, but the Panthers stopped the Sycamores at the 31-yard line with just under two minutes left. The Sycamores attempted a 48-yard field goal, but it missed, giving the Panthers the ball back at their own 31-yard line with 1:52 left in the game.
Dameron had faith his defense would give the offense one final shot to win the game.
“I waited to call a timeout until second down and I waited until there was quite a bit of time left,” Dameron said. “I was confident if we stayed in our lanes, if we played good, sound defense, they weren’t going to be able to run it on us. It’s four minute defense and we practice it all of the time.”
Indiana State scored first in the game when LeMonte Booker found the end zone on an 8-yard pass from Isaac Harker.
EIU responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by an 8-yard run by Isaiah Johnson.
The Panthers took the lead on ISU’s next drive. Harker tried to go deep and redshirt freshman Mark Williams, playing in his first game, intercepted the pass and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.
“We were in zone so I was reading the quarterback. I was running with my guy and saw some help so I came under it, jumped it and I saw end zone after that. Tunnel vision,” Williams said. “My team had my back and they led me to the end zone and I love them for that. The first drive, I got my first game jitters out. I relied on my team and they trusted me and I trusted them.”
EIU added a 22-yard field goal from Nick Wilson at the end of the first half to take a 16-7 lead.
Indiana State got a 43-yard field goal from Jerry Nunez early in the third to make it 16-10 and a 19-yard field goal made it 16-13 with 11:42 left.
Indiana state took a 20-16 lead with 4:54 left on Booker’s 6-yard TD. EIU punted on the ensuing drive and got the stop it needed before the 11-play, 69-yard drive that ended in Turner’s 15-yard touchdown reception.