DALLAS – It was yet another record-setting day for East Central University junior quarterback Marcus Johnson.
But the Tigers fell victim to six turnovers as Texas A&M-Commerce rolled to a 27-15 Lone Star Conference North football victory in the First Harvey Martin Classic before 5,697 fans at the Cotton Bowl.
Johnson became ECU’s all-time career passing yards leader in the game with 4,688, breaking Luke Hackbarth’s record of 4,570 set from 1998-2001.
Johnson was 26-of-51 passing for 311 yards and two touchdowns of 30 yards to Quade Soffel in the second quarter and nine yards to Justin Heimer on the last play of the game. He was also intercepted twice.
Texas A&M-Commerce tailback Nabil El-Amin had a career day of his own as he rushed for 194 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns on runs of 33 and 10 yards.
Lion quarterback Terry Mayo was also 12-of-23 passing for 116 yards and a TD off a 30-yard pass to Willie Thornton in the first quarter.
The Tigers had two receivers reach the 100-yard plateau as Tyrone Gibbs had eight catches for 103 yards while Keewan King had seven grabs for 100.
ECU dropped to 2-6 overall and 1-1 in the LSC North with the loss while A&M-Commerce improved to 4-4 and 2-1.
The Tigers actually totaled more offensive yards than the Lions, 397-374, but A&M-Commerce had just two turnovers on the day.
The Lions committed 22 penalties for 213 yards while ECU had 10 for 103.
A&M-Commerce struck first in the game as Mayo capped a five-play, 68-yard drive by firing a 30-yard scoring pass to Thornton. Juan Velasco’s point-after kick made it 7-0.
ECU finally responded in the second quarter with Johnson’s 30-yard scoring pass to Soffel, capping a seven-play, 83-yard series as Johnson hooked up with King on a 23-yarder and Gibbs on a 14-yarder in the series. However, the PAT was blocked as the score remained 7-6 with 7:19 to go before halftime.
That score stood up at the break and the Tigers evened enjoyed a short-lived 9-7 advantage on a 41-yard field goal by Corey Dozier with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Lions answered on their next two possessions with Mayo scoring off a 10-yard keeper. After an ECU fumble, El-Amin scored from 33 yards out just over a minute later as A&M-Commerce took control.
The Tigers had one of their better defensive games of the season as Kevin Avey and Homer Joiner were each credited with a sack. Lionel Young had a pair of tackles for losses of 25 yards and also intercepted a pass and had a 40-yard return. Young also topped the team with six tackles, all solo-efforts. Curtis Niccum also registered five solo-stops.
ECU hosts Southwestern Oklahoma State next Saturday at 6 p.m. for homecoming.