The San Diego St. Aztecs open up their non-conference schedule on Saturday, August 31st against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers at Qualcomm Stadium. Kick off is at 5pm followed by the annual KGB-FM Sky Show. This Aztec tradition and is known as the biggest fireworks show west of the Mississippi.
Lets take a deeper dive of the Eastern Illinois University located in Charleston, Illinois. The campus is 50 miles south of University of Illinois Champaign, a straight shot down Interstate 57 and 100 miles west of Bloomington, Indiana home of the IU Hoosiers. EIU plays FCS football in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Head Coach: Dino Babers, second year. 2012 Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year. Babers was named AFCA Region 3 coach of the year and third in Eddie Robinson Coach of the year voting.
2012 Record: 7 wins, 5 losses - First place, 6-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference
2012 Overview: The Panthers compete in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. The panthers explosive offense ranked 6th in passing offense, 8th in total offense and 12th in scoring offense in the FCS.
Returning Offensive Starters: 5
Returning Defensive Starters: 7
Returning Kicking Specialists: 3
Key Returning Starters: Erik Lora Receiver 5'10" 205 (136 receptions for 1,664 yards and 12 TDs), Jimmy Garoppolo Quarterback 6'3" 220 (331 completions of 540 passes, 3, 823 yards and 31 TD throws) Collin Seibert tackle 6'4" 268 (1st team All-OVC), Nick Beard 6'1" 183 (1st team All-OVC), Pat Wertz 6'4" 214 defensive end (2nd team All-OVC), Cameron Berra kicker 5'11" 203 (1st team All-OVC), Robert Haynes linebacker 6'0" 225 (team leader with 101 tackles), Peter Houihan 5'11" 177 corner back (with 78 tackles), Laurence McCall 6'1" 220 linebacker (OVC- All Newcomer of the Year).
2013 Overview: Eastern Illinois football is the defending champions of the Ohio Valley Conference and one of two OVC schools in the top 25, with Tennessee State ranked at number 21.
2013 Strengths: EIU returns star quarterback Jimmy Garopplo who ranked 3rd in the nations with touch down passes and 5th in the nation in passing yards and pass completions. The Panthers high powered offense also return Erik Lora who was named the preseason Offensive Player of the Year after finishing fourth in voting for last year's Walter Payton Award. Lora set the FCS single season record with 136 catches for 1,664 yards (fourth most in FCS history). On defense the Panthers return eight starters led by All-OVC selections Nick Beard, Pat Wertz and LeQuince McCall.
2013 Weakness: The Panthers are a top team and Lindsay's ranks them 18th while the Sporting News has them 19th in FCS preseason polls. They have a high powered offense but have key losses on the defensive line; tackles Greg Mahan and Roosevelt Holiday graduated as well as defensive end Artavivous Dowdell, who combined for 170 tackles and 14 quarterback sacks.
Gone is 2nd team all OVC running back, Jake Walker 5'11" 194 who gained over 1,150 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. The Panthers also lose three key receivers Chavar Watkins, Sam Hendricks and Chris Wright who combined to catch 170 passes and score 17 touchdowns. In addition, center Kevin Kaprellas an all conference OVC player has graduated. EIU will need to replace these positions in 2013. For additional information click on http://www.eiupanthers.com/.