Eastern rewind: Turnovers tame QB Shoffner’s big day as Panthers stumble

UT-Martin wide receiver Colton Dowell celebrates his 52-yard touchdown catch Saturday in a 34-31 victory against Eastern Illinois. (Photo via ESPN Plus)

By Barry Bottino

The biggest day of Eastern Illinois quarterback Dom Shoffner’s career came at a cost Saturday.

Despite throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns, Shoffner and the Panthers turned the ball over four times and lost, 34-31, to Ohio Valley Conference co-champion Tennessee-Martin.

Shoffner, who also ran for a team-high 64 yards and a touchdown, and EIU committed all four turnovers in the second half, including two on back-to-back possessions. The miscues led to 13 Martin points, which erased a 17-14 EIU lead after one quarter.

Two of those turnovers came on Shoffner interceptions.

EIU (2-9 overall, 1-4 OVC) ended the season on a six-game losing skid. Despite claiming the regular-season co-championship of the OVC, Martin (7-4, 5-0) lost a postgame tiebreaker – a coin flip by league commissioner Beth DeBauche – to Southeast Missouri for the league’s automatic playoff bid.

The deciding Martin score Saturday came after Eastern running back Jaelin Benefield fumbled at the EIU 7 early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Martin quarterback Dresser Winn rushed for a two-yard touchdown.

Shoffner finished 14-for-36 passing and was sacked four times.

Freshman wide receiver Justin Bowick was the main beneficiary of Shoffner’s big day, catching six passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Game changers

3:03, 1st quarter: Bowick hauls in a 63-yard TD catch from Shoffner to give Eastern a 17-14 lead.

8:43, 3rd quarter: Martin’s Tyler Larco kicked a 42-yard field goal to help the Skyhawks score on back-to-back EIU turnovers.

12:36, 4th quarter: Martin QB Dresser Winn runs for a 2-yard TD for what proved to be the game-winning score.

What it means

Eastern ended its season on a six-game losing streak. Three of the losses came by three points each.

Primetime Panthers

Prairie State Pigskin chooses the top three Panther players in the game:

Shoffner, QB: His 315 passing yards and three touchdowns was the best game by an EIU passer this season.

Bowick, WR: The true freshman from Georgia caught six passes for 177 yards and two TDs.

Jordan Vincent, S: The sophomore had six tackles and forced a fumble.

What’s next?

Eastern begins the 2023 campaign with a non-conference road game at Indiana State on Sept. 2.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: