LAKE CHARLES, La. — Eastern Illinois stepped out of Ohio Valley Conference play one more time on Saturday, falling 29-15 at McNeese.
The Cowboys led 19-7 at the half and used defensive stops in the second half to thwart any comeback attempt from EIU.
McNeese was able to use an effective ground game paced by Deonta McMahon in the first half — he rushed for 117 of his 211 yards in the opening half. However, it was McMahon taking part in a trick play that put the Cowboys on the board for their first touchdown as McMahon hit Jon McCall for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 left in the first quarter.
EIU trimmed the McNeese lead to 10-7 on the next drive with Dom Shoffner hitting Jay Vallie for a 26-yard pass on which Vallie made a circus catch for the score with 12:20 left in the half. Shoffner passed for 187 yards in his first collegiate start while rushing for 66 yards.
McNeese led 19-7 at the half with a pair of Garrison Smith field goals and a Ryan Roberts 32-yard touchdown pass to Mason Pierce. Roberts came in for an injured Walker Wood and passed for 177 yards. Pierce had eight receptions for 145 yards in the game.
EIU had two long drives that came up short. In the second quarter, the Panthers were held on a fourth-and-short attempt. On their opening drive of the second half, a field goal attempt was blocked as the Panthers were without the services of starting placekicker Stone Galloway, who missed the trip due to the flu.
McNeese answered following the blocked field goal with a touchdown run by McMahon pushing the Cowboys lead to 26-7 with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
EIU came up short one more time on fourth down after a long drive late in the third quarter. Smith knocked home his third field goal with 5:55 left for the final score for the Cowboys.
Shoffner guided the Panthers to one more score, hitting Justin Bowick for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 3:13 left. Cooper Willman connected with Nile Hill for a two-point conversion to make it 29-15.
Nick Coates led EIU's defense with 13 tackles. Jordan Vincent had 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Kordell Williams led McNeese defense with 14 tackles.
EIU fell to 2-7; McNeese improved to 2-7.
PHOTOS: Illinois State wins 35-7 over Eastern Illinois