Penn State-Eastern Illinois: A Cat Fight in Happy Valley

Pete DymeckAnalyst IOctober 5, 2009

The Penn State Nittany Lions season has not been as expected for fans and alum, but it has not been a disaster either.

The Nittany Lions needed a 28-point second half at Illinois to pull away from the Fighting Illini this past Saturday.

This week, Penn State comes back home to face the Eastern Illinois Panthers but exactly who are these Panthers?

Eastern Illinois is a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school. They are members of the Ohio Valley Conference and will be entering Happy Valley with a 4-1 record.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress are alum of Eastern Illinois, as is Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo.

Panthers quarterback Jake Christensen is someone that Penn State fans should be familiar with. From 2006-2008, Christensen was a quarterback at Iowa. He started 17 games for the Hawkeyes and won 10 of those games.

He did not play in Iowa's upset of Penn State in 2008 although he did start against the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium in 2007.

Penn State would win that game 27-7 as Christensen struggled moving the chains for Iowa. Christensen completed just 16 of 29 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception though.

Christensen is 16th among all FCS passers in yardage, seventh in touchdowns, and 16th in efficiency.

The former Iowa quarterback is near the top in every passing category within the FCS, alongside several other Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) transferees, including former Penn State and current Delaware QB Pat Devlin.

Eastern Illinois running back Mon Williams is a transfer from the Florida Gators that transferred after tearing his ACL in 2007. He has rushed for at least one touchdown in every game thus far.

Williams has contributed to the Eastern Illinois offense by averaging more than five yards per carry for a total of 441 rushing yards.

The Panthers have a plethora of wide receivers that contribute but it is a running back that leads the team with 20 receptions. His name is Jimmy Potempa.

Potempa, a Michigan transfer, does not have the size of a big-time football player, standing in at 5'7", 171 lbs. but his play making ability could cause a stir for the Penn State defense.

Eastern Illinois, like a lot of other FCS schools, has plenty of transfers from FBS schools. Other than QB Christensen, RB Williams, and RB Potempa, the following players are also tranfers:

  • CB Shelton Penrow (Florida International)
  • DE Michael Letton (Navy)
  • DE Trevor Frericks (Bowling Green)
  • DT Spyros Bazigos (Northern Illinois)
  • K Austin Signor (Iowa)
  • OG Otis Hudson (Minnesota)
  • RB Chevon Walker (Florida)

Since 2002, Eastern Illinois is 1-9 versus FBS opponents, with their lone win coming at Eastern Michigan in 2004.

The Panthers are outscoring their opponents by two touchdowns on the season. Their offense features a balanced attack in a pro-style offense.

Defensively, the Panthers are limiting opponents to 2.7 yards per carry and the secondary has allowed just four passing touchdowns on the season. They have also sacked the opposing quarterback 14 times in five games.

For Penn State though, they cannot come in and underestimate the scrappy Panthers because if they do play poorly and cannot establish the offensive line early on, boos will be reigning down from the highest corners of Beaver Stadium.

In this tumultuous season for Penn State, we can not say for sure that Penn State will win this game. Rather, it is highly improbable that they will not lose.

The offense showed signs of explosiveness Saturday at Illinois after a few sparks from running back Stephfon Green.

Penn State's secondary looked average as they allowed Illini QB Juice Williams to have his best game of the season.

Joe Paterno's squad can not be caught looking ahead to Minnesota this week as any semblance of poor play can only further damage their reputation.