CHARLESTON, Ill. (EIU Release) - Defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Illinois will play a 12-game schedule next season as the Panthers announced their 2013 football schedule which features two games against FBS schools along with ten FCS games. Game times and season ticket renewal/purchase information will be released later this spring.
The Panthers will open the season on Labor Day weekend at Mountain West Champion San Diego State on Saturday, Aug. 31. The Aztecs were 9-4 last season losing in the Poinsettia Bowl to BYU. EIU plays its second straight game on the road in week two as they visit Southern Illinois on Sept. 7. EIU beat SIU in last year's season opener to kick off the Dino Babers era.
The home opener will be against in-state rival Illinois State on Sept. 14. EIU lost in double overtime at ISU last season in the 101st playing of the Mid-America Classic. The Panthers remain in state in week four traveling to Northern Illinois on Sept. 21. NIU ended the season ranked in the Top 25 after losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Ohio Valley Conference play opens at home for EIU when they host Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 28. That game will serve as Family Weekend on campus. EIU will host Southeast Missouri for homecoming on Oct. 19. Other OVC home games for the Panthers are Nov. 2 versus Tennessee Tech and Nov. 16 versus Jacksonville State.
EIU will play four OVC contests on the road starting on Oct. 12 at Austin Peay. Other OVC road games are at Tennessee State on Oct. 26, at Murray State on Nov. 9 and at UT Martin on Nov. 23 to close the regular season. The FCS playoffs begin on Nov. 30 with the field expanding to 24 teams this season. The top eight national seeds will receive first round byes while the remaining sixteen teams will play in the opening round.
EIU is coming off a 7-5 season in which the Panthers won their sixth OVC Championship while making their 14th NCAA FCS playoff appearance. Head coach Dino Babers was named the OVC Coach of the Year after becoming only the third coach in conference history to take a school to the playoffs in their first season as a head coach.
The Panthers high powered offense will return quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receiver Erik Lora. Both players were finalists for this year's Walter Payton Award with Lora finishing fourth and Garoppolo tenth in the voting. Lora set the FCS record for single season receptions making 136 catches for 1,664 yards earning OVC Offensive Player of the Year awards along with first team All-America honors.
On defense EIU returns two All-Conference players in defensive end Pat Wertz and safety Nick Beard. Returning linebacker LeQuince McCall was named to the All-OVC Newcomer team.
2013 EASTERN ILLINOIS FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 at San Diego State
Sept. 7 at Southern Illinois
Sept. 14 ILLINOIS STATE (Mid-America Classic)
Sept. 21 at Northern Illinois
Sept. 28 * EASTERN KENTUCKY (Family Weekend)
Oct. 5 Open Date
Oct. 12 * at Austin Peay
Oct. 19 * SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (Homecoming)
Oct. 26 * at Tennessee State
Nov. 2 * TENNESSEE TECH
Nov. 9 * at Murray State
Nov. 16 * JACKSONVILLE STATE (Senior Day)
Nov. 23 * at UT Martin
Nov. 30 FCS Playoff First Round
* Ohio Valley Conference Game
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