The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Thrilling overtime ends in ‘heartbreaking loss’ for Eastern football

Junior linebacker Elijawah Tolbert (1), looks around the field after the last play of the game at Lantz Arena Saturday afternoon, Oct 7, 2023, on Eastern Illinois University Campus in Charleston, Ill

“That was a heartbreaking loss,” Eastern’s redshirt junior quarterback Pierce Holley said.

In an eight-play drive, senior kicker Stone Galloway missed a 40-yard field goal attempt as the end of regulation forced the game into overtime.

The Panthers won the coin toss at the start of overtime and chose to start on defense to attempt to stop the Skyhawks from scoring from the 25-yard line.

Skyhawks’ graduate quarterback Kinkead Dent threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end Max Dowling near the right corner of the endzone, and redshirt sophomore kicker Aidan Laros made the extra point to put UT Martin ahead by seven points.

Within two plays on the 25-yard line, redshirt junior quarterback Pierce Holley threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to graduate wide receiver Justin Thomas to make the score 28-27.

The Panthers decided to go for a two-point conversion but came up fingertips short when Holley looked for sophomore wide receiver Justin Bowick Jr. in the end zone.

Eastern lost its fourth straight homecoming game at O’Brien Field against UT Martin 28-27 on Saturday afternoon.

“We had our chances, but we just couldn’t quite finish,” Eastern’s Head Coach Chris Wilkerson said.

Before Saturday’s game, the Panthers held a 15-13 series lead over the Skyhawks.

This is only the second time that both teams competed when both teams when nationally ranked with the last time being in 2006 with a UT Martin win over Eastern 15-9.

During that season, the two teams split the OVC regular-season title as both teams advanced to the FCS playoffs.

Eastern had an eventful second quarter within the last 30 seconds of the first half.

Redshirt sophomore safety Blake Ruffin forced a fumble and recovered the ball to give it back to the Panthers.

Eastern’s defense forced four turnovers from the Skyhawks: one from Ruffin, junior linebacker Elijawah Tolbert, redshirt sophomore Phoenix Porter and an interception from redshirt sophomore safety NiJhay Burt.

“We did a much better job tackling,” Ruffin said after the game. “I feel like this was one of our best tackling games so far.”

Tolbert and fifth-year defensive back Russell Dandy led the Panthers’ defense with seven tackles. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Joel Barrows had five tackles and one sack to end the game.

Within the next 27 seconds in the first half, the Panthers went on a five-play drive. The last play ended with a 10-yard throw from Holley to junior wide receiver Eli Mirza.

Galloway secured the extra point before the first half came to an end.

Mirza was a favorite target for Holley throughout the first half as well as sophomore wide receiver Justin Bowick Jr.

Bowick Jr had two touchdowns for the Panthers: one in the first quarter off of a 13-yard pass from Holley and the other in the fourth quarter from a 14-yard pass from Holley.

Holley ended the day 29 of 48 for 359 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

“This [game] should build us into a stronger team,” Holley said.

With the loss, the Panthers are now 4-2 overall and 0-1 in Big South-OVC play.

Eastern will be on the road to compete against Southeast Missouri next Saturday.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Zaria Flippin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.

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