Shoffner and O’Brien lead EIU to first fall home win since 2018


Han Byer

Number 0 Dom Shoffner, a senior quarterback, runs towards the Panthers’ end zone during the second quarter of the football game at O’Brien Field against the Northwestern State Demons Saturday afternoon. Shoffner went 2-of-4 throwing for 20 yards, scoring 1 touchdown. The Panthers won 35-27 against the Demons.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

Quarterbacks Dom Shoffner and Jonah O’Brien took turns throughout the game to lead Eastern down the field to take the win over Northwestern State University 35-27 at home Saturday afternoon. 

EIU ran for a total of 340 yards and the quarterbacks accounted for 205 of those yards. Both Shoffner and O’Brien ran the ball into the endzone for two touchdowns each.  

Shoffner and O’Brien were excited as they reflected on their touchdowns. Shoffner credited the offensive line for their success in rushing. 

“Awesome. Shout out to the o-line. Now that’s two big weeks with a lot of rushing yards. So, they’re doing a great job upfront,” Shoffner said. 

“I feel pretty awesome. That’s the most I’ve ever had, so that felt pretty cool,” O’Brien said. 

The choice to have quarterbacks comes after to Shoffner was put in at quarterback at Murray State two weeks ago.  

Coach Chris Wilkerson said that the game plan of switching out Shoffner and O’Brien stems from the quarterback competition in the preseason and after the loss against Illinois State. 

“During the spring, the guys were super competitive. In the summer, we added Dom, and he was super competitive during preseason. The guys have been super competitive,” Wilkerson said. “Certainly, we knew coming out of Bloomington that Dom had earned the right to play a series and he took us right up and down the field and we had struggled a little bit with Jonah in there first, so we kept him in there. We knew coming into this game that we were going to alternate, at least to start the game, and we pretty much stayed with that game plan. So, they are both competing. They are both supportive of each other.” 

He also elaborated on why they kept up with alternating Shoffner and O’Brien and that it basically comes down to the successes they were both seeing on the field.  

“They were both productive. And so, you know, each brings a little something unique to the table and they were both productive with their drives and so we just continued to go with it,” Wilkerson said.  

Shoffner and O’Brien said that alternating was different for them and something they’ve never seen in their careers but are happy to do it as it led the team to success. 

“[It’s] definitely weird. You know, I’m a team player and at the end of the day, we’re all just here to win. Found a way to win today,” Shoffner said. 

“It’s definitely a little weird at first, but I mean it worked,” O’Brien said. 

Wilkerson also stated that he expects them both to continue to play as the season goes on.  

“I’m looking forward to watching them continue to grow and watching coach Davis and our offensive staff find creative ways to allow our players to be successful,” Wilkerson said. 

There were some other key plays that set up EIU for the win Saturday afternoon. 

The fifth touchdown by EIU was scored by Markenzy Pierre as he caught the 12-yard pass from Shoffner.  

Defensive back Mark Aitken ran for 80 yards for a return on a kickoff from NSU in the first quarter, which ultimately lead to a touchdown. 

The defense showed out for EIU today as four different players recorded sacks and two players had interceptions. Wilkerson was pleased with how his defense performed Saturday afternoon.  

“We were tight with some of our coverage and that forced the quarterback to hold the ball just a little longer and then the guys did get home, so it was big today,” Wilkerson said. “We knew that part of the game plan was going to be to try to keep their quarterback in the pocket and certainly to make him uncomfortable and affect the quarterback and I felt like our defensive front did that.” 

NSU started to come back in the second half as they scored 20 unanswered points to bring the game closer towards the end.  

NSU scored a touchdown that brought the score to 35-27 in the fourth quarter, but they were unable to capitalize on the two-point conversion which then put them behind by two scores. EIU was able to hold on to the ball and then Jordan Vincent caught an interception to ultimately end the game. 

Wilkerson was happy with the overall performance from his team as they won their first fall home game since 2018. This was also their first time winning back-to-back games since the 2017 season.  

“Just excited to end with a positive result you know, again, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to string two wins together here and it’s been a while since we won at home in the fall here at O’Brien Field,” said Wilkerson. “The guys have been working very hard. The coaches have been working very hard. I’m thrilled to be able to be on the positive side of it. We still had a lot of mistakes and some things that we’ve got to clean up and there’s a lot of improving to do. [I’m] pleased with the effort of everybody today and certainly happy with the outcome for the players and coaches.” 

EIU will play again at home next Saturday as they face Ohio Valley Conference newcomer Lindenwood for homecoming.