It’s been a long time since the Nittany Lions played the Panthers. The last cat fight between the Lions and Panthers took place in 2000, when the Pitt Panthers won 12-0. However, these Panthers, whom the Nittany Lions have never faced, should prove to be a significantly different story.
The #14 Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) play host to the FCS (Division I-AA) Eastern Illinois Panthers (4-1, 2-1 Ohio Valley Conference) on Saturday. The Panthers, described by Joe Paterno, as always, as “a good football team” are ranked #25 in the FCS, while they are coming off a tough 36-31 home loss to Eastern Kentucky (another “good football team”). Eastern Illinois is a perfect 3-0 on the road. Meanwhile, Penn State, as you are well aware, snapped out of its post-Iowa doldrums last week, beating Illinois 35-17.
Where in the hell is Eastern Illinois University? It resides in a town called Charleston, which is about 35 miles south of Champaign in Eastern Illinois. (Who knew?) Its population is about one-fifth of a Beaver Stadium full house. Its team mascot, as you know, is the panther.
One significant fact that I know you will enjoy is that the Eastern Illinois quarterback, Jake Christensen, is a transfer from Iowa. I guess he was the Pat Devlin to Ricky Stanzi’s Daryll Clark. Christensen ranks #15 in passing efficiency in the FCS.
Where the Panthers seem to make their presence felt is defense, ranking #15 and #12 in total defense and scoring defense, respectively. However, they have given up 70 points in the past three games, against Southeast Missouri State, Austin Peay, and Eastern Kentucky. They won their cupcake games handily, against Illinois State and Indiana State.