CHARLESTON -- Eastern Illinois football coach Kim Dameron didn't hide his frustration after Saturday's 44-13 loss to then-14th-ranked Illinois State. For the third straight game, the Panthers' offense struggled, managing 117 yards of total offense with 80 of those coming in one drive.
This comes a week after losing to Northern Illinois, which did beat Nebraska this past week, with only 187 yards of total offense. Even though EIU beat Indiana State to start the season, the Panthers were held to 278 yards of total offense and 144 yards came on two drives.
So out of the 582 yards of total offense EIU has this season, 38.4 percent of it has come on three drives.
"After three weeks of watching our offense, I am at a loss and it's really frustrating," said Dameron after Saturday's loss. "Something's gotta change for us to go forward and get better next week. It's obvious what we are doing, it ain't working. We have to look at if we have to make some changes. I don't know. We are going to talk about all of it."
Through three games, EIU ranks second to last in scoring offense with 15 points per game. EIU is last in total offense with 194 yards per game, well behind Jacksonville State's 277.5 per game, which is second to last. EIU's 50 yards rushing per game is second to last with Eastern Kentucky holding up the bottom run and the 144 yards of passing offense a game seventh in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference.
Dameron said he is going to talk with EIU offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Greg Stevens, who has been the OC all four seasons of Dameron's tenure.
"We can't afford to leave any stone unturned when it comes to how we can hopefully start making more yards and scoring more points," Dameron said. "We are a family, we are all in this together, we are going to get better. I'm not calling anybody out. I am just telling you I am frustrated with the lack of execution offensively. That's it. We have to look at every reason why."
What changes happen remain to be seen, but Dameron has already started to slide players in and out of the lineup the last two games, starting with the offensive line and at quarterback.
Against Illinois State, starting quarterback Mitch Kimble saw most of the time, but redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr., who saw time late against Northern Illinois, started to rotate in during the second half. Kimble was 11-of-19 passing for 86 yards in the game and only has one touchdown pass this season. Gilkey Jr. only attempted four passes and completed two of them for 17 yards. One of the incompletions was an interception.
Dameron said after the game that both quarterbacks will see time moving forward.
'Whichever one is healthy, I don't know. I was afraid we were going to get both of them killed to be honest with you," Dameron said. "Every time Mitch dropped back, he got smashed it seemed like. If we have more success with Scotty, we will play him more. They are both going to play."
When Gilkey Jr. did rotate in, he was asked to run the ball more often than not. He rushed 11 times for 13 yards and a touchdown, his second rushing touchdown in a week. Gilkey Jr. brings some more size as well at 6-4, 235 pounds.
"You have to find a way to run the ball. If it takes 6-4, 230, then fine, let's do that," Dameron said. "I know this, it's not going to become our offense because then what happens if he can't go. Both of them are going to have to play. Scotty had a really nice throw on a deep ball, but he's got to become more proficient in the passing game, but he helps us in the run game."
Dameron said the plan this season was to work Gilkey Jr. into games anyway.
"As the year progressed, I wanted to get Scotty out there more and more. You've got to have two (quarterbacks) and he brings a different skill set to the table," Dameron said. "You see teams around the country that play with two quarterbacks sometimes. One's a little bit more of a runner and they have a package like that and one is the more wide open and the thrower. They both have to be able to run the offense."
On the right side of the offensive line, redshirt freshman Aaron Miller has rotated with junior starter Josh Doyle and sophomore Luther Harris has rotated with junior starter Aaron Callaway at right guard.
"From last week to this week, we played our younger offensive linemen a bit and thought they might be a little more physical," Dameron said. "Big Luther (370 pounds) is big and thought he could handle their big linemen a little bit. We played Aaron at tackle, kinda subbed him and Josh to keep one fresh. When you go three and out, three and out, three and out, you don't get real tired."
But the offensive line as a whole has had its issues. Plus the Panthers are missing starting tight end Addison Bounds with a broken finger. James Sheehan and Ryan Ramirez have taken over at tight end and Nathan Kelly has seen some time. Dameron would like to see better blocking on the edges, along with the wide receivers.
So far, EIU has allowed 14 sacks to go along with only gaining 50 yards per game on the ground.
"How you make big plays, you have to be physical," Dameron said. "We have to play better all over, but then again, we have to ask what we are asking people to do and if we have to change that, we have to change it. We just can't keep doing the same things over and over and over. There comes a time, if they don't get it, let's simplify things. Whatever it may be, I don't know."