EIU's turnaround adds to lead mix

Thursday, October 30, 2003

In this wild and crazy Ohio Valley Conference season, Eastern Illinois isn't out of the running for a piece of a third consecutive title after all.

The Panthers, who recently were reeling with a five-game losing streak, notched their second straight win Saturday by easing past improved Tennessee-Martin 29-12.

And all of a sudden Eastern Illinois, 3-5 overall, is back in the hunt with a 2-2 league record. Jacksonville State (4-1) and Tennessee State (3-1) lead, but the Panthers are among four teams with two losses. They have a key game Saturday at Tennessee State.

"It's a crazy league. There are a lot of people that still have an opportunity. I hope we're one of them," Eastern Illinois coach Bob Spoo said during Wednesday's weekly OVC teleconference. "There's a light at the end of the tunnel that you have to focus on a little bit. I think a lot of people are using that motivation."

Freshman Vincent Webb ran for 206 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Eastern Illinois past visiting Tennessee-Martin (2-7, 1-4). Webb, starting for injured Andre Raymond, carried 30 times.

"I think the reason we've had a little more success is because we've been able to run the ball more effectively these last two weeks," Spoo said. "Our offensive line is doing a better job, and we've had some backup running backs come through."

Jacksonville State improved to 5-3 overall and took over first place in the league by defeating visiting Tennessee Tech 37-20.

Kory Chapman rushed for 175 yards to lead the Gamecocks. The Eagles (2-5, 1-3) have not won since losing quarterback Robert Craft to a season-ending knee injury.

Tennessee State is 5-3 overall after the Tigers bounced back from a surprisingly lopsided home loss to Jacksonville State by holding off host Samford 29-24. C.J. Johnson caught six passes for 159 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Tigers.

Ray Nelson completed 30 of 47 passes for 263 yards for Samford (5-3, 3-2), which is still right on the heels of the OVC's one-loss teams.

Murray State (3-6, 2-3) broke a two-game losing streak and damaged Southeast Missouri State University's title hopes by rallying for a 27-24 win over the host Indians (2-6, 2-2), who had a two-game winning streak snapped.

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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