The Redbirds defeated South Dakota 34-31 to improve to 5-0. (Photo by B. Corbin/WJBC)
By WJBC Staff
VERMILLION, S.D. –Nick Aussieker’s career-long 42-yard fourth-quarter field goal was the difference, as No. 12 Illinois State (5-0, 2-0 MVFC) rallied for a 34-31 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory over South Dakota (1-3, 0-1 MVFC) Saturday afternoon at the DakotaDome. With five consecutive victories to open the season, Illinois State is off to its best start since 1967.
Aussieker’s field goal capped a perfect afternoon for the sophomore kicker, who added a 22 yard field goal on ISU’s opening drive and made all four extra point attempts. His fourth quarter kick was set up by Matt Goldsmith’s first career interception, the eighth this year by a Redbird defender.
Illinois State led at halftime 24-10, but South Dakota would rally with 14 unanswered points to tie the game. On the very first play from scrimmage after the Coyotes connected on a 43 yard game-tying touchdown pass, Matt Brown’s 79-yard touchdown pass toDonovan Harden gave ISU a lead they would never relinquish.
Brown finished 15-for-31 for 336 yards and one touchdown and added a 12 yard rushing touchdown in the win. Harden led all receivers with 139 yards on three catches, while Tyrone Walker added 110 yards on five catches as Illinois State amassed 489 yards of total offense. For the fourth time this season, Darrelynn Dunn eclipsed 100 rushing yards, finishing with 107 yards and two scores on 26 carries. Defensively, Mike Zimmer led the Redbirds with 13 tackles, but South Dakota accumulated 470 yards of total offense, including 277 in the air. The effort was Zimmer’s third-consecutive double-digit tackle game.
On the first play from scrimmage, Brown connected with Walker for a 58-yard completion, giving the senior quarterback sole possession of the all-time school record for career passing yards. Brown entered the game tied with Kevin Glenn with 8,251 career passing yards. Illinois State would march 79 yards over eight plays and get on the board first on a 22-yard field goal Aussieker.
South Dakota needed just four plays to take the lead. After quarterback John Vander Maten scrambled for a 15 yard gain on third down, running back Marcus Sims broke off a 53 yard touchdown run down the left sideline, giving South Dakota the 7-3 lead. Sims would finish with 120 yards on 14 carries. Two possessions later, the Redbirds marched deep into Coyote territory and a running into the kicker penalty on fourth down gave the Redbirds first and goal. Three plays later, Dunn carried the ball three yards into the end zone for a touchdown run, giving ISU a 10-7 lead.
Kevin Robb’s 32 yard field goal tied the game at 10-10 with 8:26 to play in the opening half. The Redbirds would score on their next possession, with Brown opening the drive with a 45-yard pass completion to Harden. The ‘Birds would run the rest of the way, as Dunn capped the 75-yard drive with a one yard touchdown run.
Dontay McCoy’s second blocked punt of the game gave Illinois State possession on the South Dakota nine yard line with 1:09 to go in the first half. On third-and-goal from the 12, Brown evaded defenders for a touchdown run, sending Illinois State into the break with a 24-10 lead and closing the half on a 21-3 run.
South Dakota’s comeback began with Vander Maten launching a 46 yard touchdown pass to Terrence Terry to cut the ISU lead to 7.
The Coyotes would get the ball back on a Dunn fumble. One the first play from scrimmage, Vander Maten connected on a 43 yard dump pass touchdown to Sims, tying the game, 24-24 with 9:29 to go in the game and setting up Harden’s touchdown reception.
Illinois State returns to Hancock Stadium next week for Homecoming, Oct. 6, against Southern Illinois. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. with coverage beginning at 12 p.m. on WJBC and the WJBC/Country Financial Illinois State Radio Network.