Eastern Illinois University’s offense proved to be too much for ISU’s defense to handle during the Mid-America Classic, Saturday night in Charleston, Ill — defeating the Redbirds 57-24.
’Bird starting quarterback Jared Barnett went 7-for-18 for 133 yards and three interceptions before leaving the game late in the first half due to an injury. In backup quarterback Blake Winkler’s debut, he was 8-for-11 for 144 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Panther’s senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went 26-for-41 for 480 total yards, no interceptions and an EIU school record seven touchdown passes.
ISU head coach Brock Spack told WJBC he thought Garoppolo was one of the best quarterbacks he has ever had to defend against.
“Boy oh boy — he just couldn’t make any mistakes,” Spack said. “We had guys in position to make plays but he just threw the ball right on the money.”
The game started out positive for the Redbirds who got on the board first. At just 2:15 in, Barnett completed a pass to freshman Anthony Warrum. Nick Aussieker kicked the extra point to put ISU up 7-0.
The ’Birds early fortunes were quickly flipped upside down as the Panthers went on to score 27 unanswered points on four touchdowns in the first quarter.
First, Garopollo completed a pass to Adam Drake for a 23-yard touchdown. Next, he connected with Andre Hodge on a six-yard touchdown pass, then a 63-yard score to Lora. Finally, with four seconds left in the first, Garoppolo found Keiondre Gober for an 86-yard pass to put EIU up 27-7.
ISU got back on the board with a 30-yard field goal from Aussieker to make the score 27-10 at the 8:52 mark of the second quarter.
The Panthers then went on to score back-to-back touchdowns. First, with a 30-yard score from Garoppolo to Drake, and then with a 13-yard pass from Garopollo to Lora, plus two PATs put Eastern up 41-10 with 4:49 remaining in the first half. A 38-yard field goal by Cameron Berra wrapped-up the first-half scoring barrage by EIU.
Winkler took over the second half at quarterback for an injured Barnett, who was suffering from back spasms, and had two passing touchdowns on the night. First, with a five-yard pass to Cameron Meredith, and then another five-yard score to Merideth with 2:06 left in the game.