EIU Loses Opener at Minnesota, 42-20

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MINNEAPOLIS (via EIU Athletics) – Turnovers plagued Eastern Illinois in the opener for first year head coach Kim Dameron as the Panthers fell at Minnesota, 42-20.   EIU turned the ball over three times in the season opening loss on Thursday night.

EIU's offense was able to move the ball on its opening drive but the first of two first quarter fumbled snaps stalled the drive just past midfield.   The second first quarter fumble proved more costly.

The Panthers fumbled the snap at their own five-yard line after being backed up by a penalty on a Minnesota punt.  After stuffing the run the first two plays, Gophers quarterback Mitch Lender ran around the end for a 2-yard score with 1:53 to play in the first quarter.

Minnesota had a fumble in its own territory midway through the opening quarter as Fedney Delphonse forced a fumble.  After a 3-and-out, freshman kicker Nick Bruno missed right on a 41-yard field goal, his first collegiate kick. 

EIU used both quarterbacks in the opening quarter with Jalen Whitlow getting the start.  Andrew Manley ran the final drive of the quarter.  For the game Whitlow was 14-23 for 110 yards passing while rushing for 77 yards.  Manley finished 18-of-34 for 200 yards.  Manley scored one of the Panthers touchdowns on the ground.  He hit Jimmy Lera and Adam Drake for touchdowns.

Minnesota added to its lead just before halftime as Donovahn Jones scored on a 35-yard touchdown from Lender with 1:27 to go in the half.  Jones caught the ball after EIU's corner jumped the route but could not knock down the ball.  The Gophers led 14-0 at the break.  It marked the first time since Oct. 9, 2009 at Penn State that EIU failed to score in the first half.

The Gophers tacked on a special teams touchdown to open the second half.  After stuffing EIU's offense, Eric Murray blocked a punt and it was returned two yards by Logan Hutton with 13:20 to play in the third putting Minnesota up 21-0.

EIU put together a successful drive deep into Minnesota territory in the third quarter only to see it end on the Panthers third fumble of the day.  EIU turned it over at the five yard line with 7:22 to play in the 3rd.

EIU turned it over for a fourth time in the third quarter and the Panthers eventually allowed a short touchdown run by Leidner from 2-yards out with 13:56 to play in the game. 

The Gophers added a two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter as they rushed for 182 yards in the game.  

EIU got on the board in the fourth quarter as Manley scored on a quarterback sneak with 6:57 to play in the game.  EIU finished with 409 yards for the game.  The Panthers second touchdown came on an 11-yard swing pass to Jimmy Lera with 28 seconds left in the game.   Adam Drake caught a Hail Mary as time expired to give EIU three touchdowns in the final seven minutes.

Kamu Grugier-Hill led the Panthers defense with eight tackles and one fumble recovery.  Adam Gristick and Fedney Delphonse each sacks for EIU.  Damien Wilson led Minnesota with 10 tackles.

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