For the second straight year, Iowa opens its football season against a Panther team.
Last year, the Hawkeyes needed two consecutive blocked field goals to squeak out a win against in-state rival Northern Iowa Panthers. The too-close-for-comfort victory propelled many fans into chaotic shock.
This year, fans will watch on as Iowa faces the Eastern Illinois Panthers in their opening game of the 2010 season. It's not expected to be as close as last year's home opener, but then again last year's first game against UNI wasn't exactly supposed to be that close of an affair, either.
Taking a closer look at Eastern Illinois, it becomes clear that they aren't Northern Iowa. That being said, they aren't exactly a pee-wee football team, either.
As such, there are a few things Hawkeye fans need to know about their upcoming opponent.
Picture courtesy of Brittany Bart's Photostream (babart620) on Flickr.
Location: Charleston, Illinois
Conference: Ohio Valley Conference
Undergrad Enrollment: 9,928
Colors: Blue and Grey
Head Coach: Bob Spoo
Preseason Rank: No. 16
The Panthers posted an 8-4 record last fall, winning the Ohio Valley Conference championship last year.
Eastern Illinois ended the 2009 season ranked No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll following, and made a 13th appearance in the NCAA FCS playoffs. They are ranking as high as No. 16 in the country and predicted to finish second in the OVC.
This game will mark the first time Eastern Illinois and Iowa have ever played.
Some schools understand the usage of social media; some schools don't.
For a smaller school, Eastern Illinois seems to be keep up with the latest web trends. From Twitter to Flickr, the Panthers have branded themselves fairly well the most popular online social networks.
Eastern Illinois has an 0-3 record against current Big Ten Conference teams. That record includes last year's 52-3 demoralizing loss at Penn State last year.
Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark threw for three touchdowns and ran for his fourth. Linebacker Navorro Bowman even scored, returning a fumble 91 yards for a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions gained a season-high 553 yards against the Panthers.
According to Gazette columnist Mike Hlas, the Panthers are 1-12 vs. FBS teams since 2000.
"Since 2002, EIU has faced six squads from BCS leagues," Hlas writes. "The Panthers not only lost all six, but didn’t come any closer than 25 points of any of the winners."
The stats get worse.
"The combined score of those 13 games is opponents 573, Eastern Illinois 191," Hlas calculates in his post.
Their lone win was a close victory over Eastern Michigan in 2004.
Judging by their roster, Eastern Illinois either has problems recruiting in Iowa or hates people from Iowa.
There are currently no Iowan players on the Eastern Illinois roster. Iowa's squad features 13 players from the state of Illinois.
P Ryan Donahue,SR - Evergreen Park, IL
QB John Wienke, SO - Tuscola, IL
FB Brett Morse, SR - Willowbrook, IL
TE Brad Herman, JR - Metamora, IL
LB Terrance Pryor, SO - South Holland, IL
LS Andrew Schulze, SR - Woodridge, IL
OL Adam Gettis, JR - Frankfort, IL
DL Scott Covert, RS FR - Lake Forest, IL
TE Dakota Getz, RS FR - Macon, IL
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE FR - Johnsburg, IL
DL Louis Trinca-Pasat, FR - Chicago, IL
OL Markus Zusevics, JR - Arlington Heights, IL
DL Martin Hopkins, RS FR - Chicago, IL
Cornerback C.J. James recorded five interceptions last year for the Pathers. He was a big reason EIU ranked in the top 20 nationally in turnovers gained.
James also recorded 44 tackles, three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks. Phil Steele names him to his first team all-OVC team.
If Stanzi hasn't figured out his interception problem, the Panther cornerback could make things interesting.
Head Coach Bob Spoo’s team has several veterans returning for action this fall.
Seven starters return on offense and on the defense. That includes three starting linebackers, who combined for 208 tackles.
Running back Mon Williams, a transfer from Florida, was the most productive player on offense in 2009. If he doesn't miss the Iowa game with an sprained knee, he could be someone to keep an eye on.
Several returning players were named to Phil Steele's all-OVC team this year.
Returning Starters on Offense
RB Mon Williams, Jr. - 870 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns
WR Charles Graves, Sr. - 24 receptions, 333 yards, 3 touchdowns
WR Kenny Whittaker, So. - 29 receptions, 358 yards, 2 touchdowns
WR Lorence Ricks, Jr. - 19 receptions, 381 yards, 3 touchdowns
TE Danny Vehovic, Sr. - 10 receptions, 66 yards, 1 touchdown
OG Willie Henderson, Jr. 2nd team All-OVC
OG Eric Zink, Jr
Returning Starters on Defense
DE Perry Burge, Jr. - 31 tackles, 7 TFL, 5 sacks
LB Gordy Kickels, Jr. - 62 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
LB Nick Nasti, Sr. - 83 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 interception
LB Cory Leman, Jr. - 63 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 sack
CB Rashad Haynes, Sr. - 46 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 interception, 11 pass break-ups, 2nd team All-OVC
CB CJ James, Sr. - 44 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 interceptions, 1st team All-OVC
SS Bobson Mercier, Sr. - 18 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 interception
Former Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen played as quarterback last year for the Panthers, after transferring to Eastern Illinois.
Thankfully, he will not be making a return to the field at Kinnick Stadium this year. EIU will be starting a new quarterback this year when the team heads to Iowa City.
Coach Spoo also had to kick three players off the football team. Senior running back Chevon Walker, senior defensive end Colin Luczynski, and junior offensive lineman Eric Rettke were kicked off the team.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Luczynski was expected to compete for a starting spot with the team. Walker and Rettke were expected to play as back-ups.
The coach also had to replace its top two defensive tackles and offensive line coach.