Tyrone Walker tied the Illinois State career record for most recieving touchdowns at 28 in a 17-10 victory over Indiana State on Saturday. (WJBC/ B Corbin)
By WJBC Staff
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Illinois State's football team all but assured itself a spot in the Division I-AA playoffs Saturday with a 17-10 Missouri Valley Conference victory over Indiana State before 6,008 people at Memorial Stadium.
The win by the No. 15-ranked Redbirds over the No. 14-ranked Sycamores moved Illinois State's overall record to 8-2 and its league mark to 5-2. It also secured a perfect road record for the first time since 1937 for the Redbirds, who finished the regular season 5-0 away from Hancock Stadium.
Illinois State jumped to a 17-0 lead and held off the Sycamores, whose record dropped to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Valley.
For the second consecutive week, the Illinois State defense forced multiple takeaways as Ben Ericksen and Shelby Harris each recorded an interception. The Redbirds have 15 interceptions this year, the most for an Illinois State team since 1993.
Mike Banks registered a career-high 10 tackles to lead the Redbirds, while Evan Frierson and Austin Davis each had a sack. Indiana State senior running back Shakir Bell, who came into the contest averaging over 145 yards-per-game, was limited to 115 yards on 22 carries and did not score.
Matt Brown paced the Illinois State offense, completing 12-of-23 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown. Tyrone Walker led all receivers with seven receptions for 120 yards and caught the lone touchdown pass from Brown. His third-quarter scoring reception gave the senior wideout 29 in his career, which ties him with Laurént Robinson for the most career touchdown receptions in Illinois State football history.
After a scoreless, penalty-free opening half by both teams, Illinois State scored on a 36-yard field goal by Nick Aussieker midway through the third quarter. It capped a 12-play, 56-yard drive that was set up by a 7-yard dash from Brown on third-and-long.
After the field goal, the Illinois State defense responded with a quick three-and-out, giving the offense the ball at its 35-yard line. Brown’s first pass attempt went 11 yards to Lechein Neblett before he found Walker for a 34-yard reception down the right sideline. Five plays later, Brown connected with Walker on a 4-yard touchdown reception, giving the Redbirds a 10-0 lead with 4:01 to play in the third quarter.
Indiana State’s next two possessions would end in quarterback sacks before Perish was intercepted by Ericksen at midfield. After Illinois State was forced to punt, the Sycamores’ first play was intercepted by Harris, the first career interception for the junior defensive lineman.
The Redbirds needed just two plays to find the end zone as Darrelynn Dunn covered 16 yards on the first play before scoring on a 3-yard dash, making it 17-0 Illinois State. The senior running back finished with 100 yards on 30 carries, marking the fifth time this season he has tallied 100-plus yards.
Indiana State got on the board after a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Perish to Michael Mardis. The Sycamores benefitted from a 15-yard roughing the punter penalty before finding the end zone, making it 17-7.
After recovering the on-sides kick, Tanner Fritschle booted a 35-yard field goal, making it 17-10. The Sycamores attempted another on-sides kick, but committed an off-side penalty, allowing Brown to kneel out the victory.
Illinois State has a bye week before returning to play Nov. 17 against Valley foe and defending FCS national champion No. 1 North Dakota State at 12:05 p.m. at Hancock Stadium. Redbird Preview starts at 11a.m. on WJBC AM 1230 and FM 93.7 and the WJBC/Country Financial Illinois State Radio Network.