EIU Panthers

Sunday, September 20, 2009

OVC Turnpike & BBQ

Saturday marked the start of what Eastern Illinois radio announcer Mike Bradd terms the first of many season long trips on the OVC Turnpike.

For people not associated with where EIU is exactly located, the OVC Turnpike is the stretch of road going from Exit 190 on Interstate 57 (Charleston/Mattoon exit) until you hit Paducah, Kentucky off of Interstate 24.

From that 195 mile stretch of road Eastern Illinois fans, student-athletes, coaches and anyone else who fits the official and non-official traveling party can access seven of the current OVC member schools for competition. In a few short years an eighth will be added to that list as you will hit a 30-mile stretch of the turnpike from Mattoon to Effingham on your way to SIU Edwardsville. While not a long stretch it still lands on the turnpike - much like people who live off Exit 8A on the Jersey Turnpike count themselves on that piece of road even though they are miles from New York City.

The two schools you don't hit on the turnpike are Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, but that part of Kentucky can be saved for a future posting.

What you learn on the turnpike is what stops are along the way and if you ride with Charleston Times Courier Sports Editor Brian Nielsen long enough, you can even find out what gas stations have the best stop-and-go food along the route.

While the drive may be long, you start to decipher the trip by land marks along the way -- The Big Cross in Effingham and the Superman billboard in Metropolis. You also learn that the OVC turnpike features some of the best BBQ joints.

On the way to Southeast Missouri you hit the world famous 17th Street BBQ which has won several world championship awards for its great food. (Located on the Carbondale/Marion exit - for those making the trip).

In Clarksville we found a spot called Golden Rule BBQ last year which was not half bad. A personal favorite is located on Broadway in downtown Nashville - Jack's BBQ. You can't miss the marquee with flying pigs and its located just a few doors down from Tootsie's Orchid Lounge where EIU alum Jake Maurer plays almost nightly.

The long trip to Tennessee Tech has not produced a BBQ favorite to date nor has the trip to UT Martin, but Martin has less choices than Charleston when looking for places to eat.

Jacksonville State features several good choices as you would expect in the deep south of Alabama. Some of the best cornbread in the world is at Sonny's BBQ in Oxford.

The one that takes the cake is probably at Murray State where the Racers sports information director Dave Winder always provides a nice BBQ spread in the press box for football and basketball which not only tastes good but is free.

So the first trip down the OVC turnpike was a good one as EIU pulled out a 23-14 win in football and had a good lunch stop at 17th street BBQ. If you stop in, the pound of pork shoulder is really more than any one person should eat, but is just too good to resist.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Panthers Hit The Pros

In just two short days former Eastern Illinois football player Pierre Walters will become the latest Panther to don a uniform in the National Football League. Walters was one of 53-players to be named to the Kansas City Chiefs active roster and he will suit up against the Baltimore Ravens in his debut this Sunday at Noon (Central) on CBS.

While Walters road to the NFL stage has been a long battle throughout the summer he becomes the fifth Eastern Illinois athelte from last year's class to begin his professional career. Walters was undrafted in the April NFL draft and signed as a free agent. He was the first of five former Panthers to either sign or be drafted during the summer.

The Major League Baseball draft saw three Panthers be selected including Tyler Kehrer as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the draft. Brett Nommensen and Jordan Kreke would follow in later rounds. All three have been off to productive minor league careers.

Rachel Galligan, EIU's career women's basketball scoring leader, was the final player to sign a professional contract inking with a team in the Spanish Pro League. Galligan headed overseas to begin her career in mid-August.

Eastern Illinois is proud of all five of these young student-atheltes who have achieved their dream of a professional career and we wish them continued success.

Links to each team's professional website are included.

Pierre Walters - Kansas City Chiefs
Tyler Kehrer - Orem Owlz
Brett Nommensen - Hudson Valley Renegades
Jordan Kreke - Danville Braves
Rachel Galligan - Spanish Women's Basketball League

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Panther Nation helps Panthers to win in season opener.

Before the 98th meeting between rival schools Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University, 10,013 fans outside of O'Brien Field in Charleston meshed together into a sea of blue getting ready for Thursday's football season opener.

Most of the blue sea consisted of, "Panther Nation," a group of students similar to what the University of Illinois calls "Orange Crush."

Tony Romo jerseys, blue wigs, foam hands, beads and pom-poms were all mainstays among Panthers' fans.

Members of Panther Nation were given amenities like free bbq sandwiches from "What's Cookin," a local Charleston restaurant, a tent to play Nintendo Wii and XBOX 360, a beer tent and bounce houses for the younger crowd.

The sandwiches are fantastic and are highly recommended. Strolling in to the tent with the Wii and 360, professor Jon Oliver was enjoying the pregame festivities and looking to play a game of NCAA 10 on the XBOX 360. It would have been nice to take the professor on but time was of the essence and many other freebies needed to be seen.

While all the free amenities drew a large crowd, one crew was supporting a great cause.

Hopefully, everyone got a chance to go to the dunk tank which was set up for the Liz Halbert Scholarship fund.

Halbert brought a campaign against racism to EIU called the "Not in our Town," campaign.

It cost three dollars to throw five balls at a target in an attempt to knock Darius White, vice-president of the Black Student Union at EIU, off of his perch.

After an unsuccessful attempt to knock White to the water, Health Services passed out free hand sanitizer allowing a cleansing of the hands which produced such putrid shots.

With squeaky clean hands, the beer tent appeared to be a fun destination. Fans were served their choice of New Castle Brown Ale and Miller Lite with songs like Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," blasting.

After the beer tent, it was game time.

With three first-quarter turnovers, the game seemed sloppy, but EIU lit up its brand new scoreboard first in the second quarter on a Mon Williams 6-yard touchdown run. Panther Nation went insane as Jake Christensen hit Jimmy Potempa to extend its lead to 14-0.

A third-quarter touchdown sent Panther Nation into a roar and gave EIU, what ended up being, an insurmountable lead.

The team, Panther Nation and all who were a part should be proud of their work as EIU defeated ISU 31-6 for its 39th win against ISU.