Hawaii's Hyrum Peters and Keani Alapa tackled Eastern Illinois receiver Andre Raymond last night.
EIUs Raymond getsAndre Raymond had been waiting months to put on a helmet again and run under the bright lights. The junior tailback for Eastern Illinois missed last year's final two games due to a broken left leg, cutting short a season where he had averaged 167 all-purpose yards
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By Cindy Luis
In his first collegiate start last night, the 5-foot-11 Raymond was frustrated several times, including when he had to take a knee in the end zone on the opening kickoff for a touchback. But he's no stranger to frustration, having spent two seasons in the shadow of all-conference tailback J.R. Taylor, a 6-2 senior who set the school record for touchdowns last year with 20.
Last night, months of rehab paid off and the promises he made to himself while in a cast were realized. Raymond was back ... looking more than ready to surpass his 1,503 all-purpose yards from last season, the third-best mark in school history. He finished with 156 yards on kick returns, 62 rushing yards and 128 yards receiving, including an 8-yard catch for EIU's last touchdown of the game with 8:08 left.
"Tonight was my coming-out game, and I was really looking forward to playing Hawaii," said Raymond, whose 11-yard reception set up the Panthers' first TD that gave the visitors a 6-0 lead. "I was ready to get back in the game, back into the action.
"There were a lot of doubters out there, waiting to see how I'd come back off this leg injury. I don't know if I proved them wrong but I came out, played hard, do what I got to do."
EIU coach Bob Spoo was happy to see Raymond back healthy, giving the Panthers the versatile double threat of him and Taylor. Taylor finished with 156 rushing yards on 21 attempts with a touchdown.
"Raymond's a good football player and we're fortunate to have both of them on the field at the same time," said Spoo. "We did some good things tonight, fought hard and tried to come back.
"One of the things that hurt us was our kicking game. That was disappointing and we gave up some big plays."
Spoo also hopes that freshman Steve Kuehn will shake off the opening-night jitters. Kuehn, who replaces all-conference kicker Bill Besenhofer, got off to a rough start, missing a 36-yard field goal, a PAT and was assessed a delay-of-game penalty when he failed to kick off before the play clock expired -- all in the first quarter.
EIU will have nearly two weeks off to work on pass defense; the Panthers don't play again until Sept. 14 at Kansas State.
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