‘Confident’ kicker Galloway a key piece to Eastern Illinois offense

Eastern Illinois kicker Stone Galloway is 9-for-9 on field goal attempts this season. (Photo by EIUPanthers.com)

By Dan Verdun

At this time a year ago, Stone Galloway wasn’t the confident kicker he’s become.

Former Eastern Illinois head coach Adam Cushing and his staff had Galloway and the other rostered kickers going through weekly competitions leading up to game day.

Galloway, now a junior, didn’t mind the added pressure.

“In that staff’s mind, I think they still had me as the starter, but they also liked to make sure that I got some competition, and that’s a good thing. It kept me on my game and locked in,” he said.

Galloway, in fact, pointed out there’s still competition this year under first-year head coach Chris Wilkerson’s staff.

“They always say it’s fluid,” he said, “so I’ve got to stay on my game.”

Galloway has been perfect to date, going 9-for-9 on field goal attempts as well as making all 20 extra point tries this season. He leads the team with 47 points.

Digging deeper, Galloway is one of three FCS kickers still perfect on field goals and has the most makes of that trio. Joining him on the list are The Citadel’s Colby Kintner and Butler’s Luka Zurak, both 7-for-7 this fall.

“I haven’t really done anything differently this year,” Galloway said. “But I also noticed leading into the season through fall camp that I had a different level of confidence in myself . . . For a kicker, being confident is huge. As I’ve been doing well this season, that confidence has just continued to build.”

Galloway, a Collinsville native and an Althoff Catholic High School graduate, is also prepared for the moment a kick falls short, sails wide or gets blocked.

“One thing I do focus on, especially in practice, is if I do end up missing a kick that I just keep things the exact same (with my mechanics) and don’t change anything else,” Galloway said, “and to just believe in myself.”

This week’s opponent

Both EIU (2-5 overall, 1-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference) and Tennessee Tech (1-6, 0-3) are in need of a win.

Despite losing five straight games, TTU pushed preseason nationally ranked Kennesaw State into overtime last Saturday.

The Golden Eagles have played three ranked FCS teams as well as opening the season at FBS Kansas.

Quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall, a transfer from Austin Peay, spearheads the offense with more than 1,500 passing yards and 14 touchdowns.

Willie Miller leads the team with 20 catches. Running back David Gist is an all-purpose threat out of the backfield.

Linebacker Seth Carlisle tops the defense with 63 tackles, good for third among OVC leaders. Defensive back Josh Reliford adds 50 tackles, including five for loss.

(Kickoff: 2 p.m.; TV: ESPN-Plus; Radio: WEIU.net/HitMix)

Key matchup to watch

EIU special teams vs. TTU special teams: In a game that features two well-matched teams on paper, the difference very well could come down to the kicking game. In addition to Galloway, punter Trey Wilhoit is averaging 43.6 yards a boot. Punt returner Cooper Willman has displayed sure hands in addition to an 18.8 yards-per-return average. He also recovered an onside kick last weekend.

“Coach (Kyle) Derickson has done a phenomenal job with special teams. It’s an area we have shown a ton of improvement in every measurable statistical category,” Wilkerson said. “We talk about it being a 1/3 of the game, and we know we’ve got to try and win that third every single week.”

TTU kicker Hayden Olsen has missed just one field goal this season. Last weekend, the Georgia native kicked three field goals, including a career-long 47-yarder.

“He’s a very athletic kid,” TTU head coach Dwayne Alexander said. “Those were all huge kicks now, every single one of them, including the one in overtime.”

What’s at stake?

An EIU win would give the Panthers their second OVC victory of the year, the most since 2018.

Quick hits

According to the EIU radio broadcast last weekend, receiver Justin Thomas is out for the season with a hip injury. Thomas, a transfer from Albion (Mich.) College, was leading the team in receiving at the time of his injury . . . Receiver Isaiah Hill has played in just one game this season while dealing with injuries. A preseason All-OVC selection, Hill is questionable for Saturday . . . Quarterback Dom Shoffner is listed as day-to-day with an injury to his non-throwing hand . . . Freshman tailback MJ Flowers will likely see more action at running back against Tennessee Tech. Flowers made his EIU debut last weekend at Tennessee State and led the Panthers in rushing.

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