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

Flowers scores more points than Tennessee State offense in Panther win

Tyriq Johnson
Redshirt freshman running back MJ Flowers (20) celebrates a touchdown with redshirt junior offensive lineman Elkhanan Tanelus (72). Eastern beat Tennessee State 30-17 Saturday afternoon at O’ Brien Field.

With four rushing touchdowns, a blocked punt, and a new pass breakup record, Eastern has aspects to be proud of after their 30-17 win against Tennessee State.

In the first quarter, redshirt junior quarterback Pierce Holley threw a pass to junior Eli Mirza. Mirza made the one-handed catch to gain 17 yards and the first down.

On the next play, redshirt freshman running back MJ Flowers ran for 14 yards, just shy of a touchdown by two yards…that he obtained on the next play.

Flowers also scored the second touchdown the Panthers recorded in the first quarter after sophomore safety NiJhay Burt blocked a TSU punt.

Burt blocked TSU Tiger Jackson Foster’s punt and recovered the ball at the nine-yard line to help the Panther offense have less than 10 yards to gain for an additional six points. Senior kicker Stone Galloway gave the Panthers an extra point for the 14-0 lead.

“The whole time, I was thinking ‘I gotta make the play, I gotta make the play,’ and it just happened,” Burt said.

Throughout the second half, the Tigers fought their way to end the first half with 14 points. TSU used two quarterbacks throughout the game: senior Draylen Ellis and redshirt senior Deveon Bryant.

Both quarterbacks threw touchdown passes to give the Tigers momentum throughout the second quarter.

The flip switched for the Panthers when defensive caption Mark Aitken Jr. gave the defense a pep talk before coming out for the second half.

“He said, ‘if we want it, we have to take it,’” Burt said.

“I said, ‘it’s like 0-0 now,’” Aitken said. “‘The second half is our half. Playmakers make plays in the second half.’ After that, we turned on some Kodak [Black] and we started dancing to get the energy up before going outside.”

With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Flowers found the end-zone again after running 31 yards to give the Panthers an additional six points.

From the 06:51 minute mark in the third quarter, the Panthers took control for the remainder of the game.

Junior kicker Julian Patino gave the Panthers an additional three points for a 23-17 lead before the fourth quarter.

Yet again, Flowers found the end-zone late in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Panthers. Flowers rushed for 201 yards and recorded four rushing touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman running back MJ Flowers rushes down the field for a first down. Eastern beat Tennessee State 30-17 Saturday afternoon at O’ Brien Field. (Ashanti Thomas)

“There’s a whole lot of trust in the coaching staff and a whole lot of hard work that went into that to be able to come out here and display that performance,” Flowers said. “It’s big for us; not just for me but for the program too to get that win.”

“MJ certainly had some great vision cuts where he took the first read and got vertical and then kinda got himself back in phase with blocking, but it was really fun to watch,” Panthers’ Head Coach Chris Wilkerson said.

The last Panther to record four rushing touchdowns was J.R Taylor against Florida Atlantic University in 2002.

This is also the second time this season Flowers has single-handily rushed more yards than the opponents’ entire offense. The Tigers rushed for 106 yards.

Fifth year defensive back Russell Dandy also broke records of his own.

Dandy now holds the most pass breakups in a single season in program history with 17 pass breakups. Ben Brown previously held that record since 2004 with 16 pass breakups.

Eastern defeated TSU to move to a 7-3 overall record and a 3-2 Big South-Ohio Valley Conference record.

“That was a real good team that we played against,” junior cornerback Tyris Harvey said. “For us to come out with the win, it feels good.”

Harvey recorded an interception in the end-zone with less than a minute left in the second quarter.

Eastern has one last game in the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 19 against Robert Morris.

Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Moon Township, PA.

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

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About the Contributors
Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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