Moments earlier Spencer Schnell had a third-down pass go through his hands for an incompletion. With his Illinois State Redbirds locked in a 6-6 tie early in the third quarter, head coach Brock Spack decided to leave his offense on the field for a 4th-and-4.
The gamble paid off as Schnell hauled in a pass-and-run that resulted in the 29-yard gain. The key play moved the ball to the Missouri State 6, where Markel Smith then raced around the right side for the Redbirds' go-ahead touchdown.
Those two plays ignited a sluggish ISU offense and propelled the Redbirds to a 34-9 win to open their Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule.
Illinois State scored 28 points in the decisive third quarter, including a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fowler in the waning seconds of the period. The play gave ISU junior quarterback Jake Kolbe a career-high in passing yards. The Naperville Central High School graduate ended the day with 312 passing yards.
In addition, the ISU (3-0) put the clamps down on the Missouri State offense. Though the Bears (1-3) scored on their third play from scrimmage as speedy receiver Deion Holliman took an option pitch and raced 53 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, ISU's defense controlled the game.
After Missouri State's opening drive netted 75 yards, Illinois State limited the Bears to 236 yards for the remainder of the game. Moreover, 74 of those yards came on MSU's final drive as the Redbirds played a softer defense.
The 12th-ranked Redbirds limited Missouri State quarterback Peyton Hulsig to 12 completions in 28 attempts for 157 yards. ISU also sacked Hulsig four times.
Quoting the Coaches
""It (third quarter) was more about attitude and toughness and execution and discipline. They slapped themselves into shape, set their jaw, buckled their chin strap and fixed it," ISU head coach Brock Spack told The Pantagraph.
"They went down and scored once and next thing you know they scored four straight drives and we had four straight three and outs," Missouri State coach Dave Steckel said in the postgame press conference. "That's not a good remedy for anything. They imposed their will in the third quarter, and we couldn't stop them."
Players of the Game
Junior wide receiver Spencer Schnell caught nine passes for a career-high 135 yards.
Junior quarterback Jake Kolbe completed 24-of-32 attempts for a career-best 312 yards and one touchdown.
Senior defensive end Adam Conley bagged five tackles, two of which were for loss, and a sack.
By the Numbers
2 -- Redshirt freshmen (Cole Anderson and Garrett Hirsch) who started in the ISU offensive line due to injuries
2 -- Blocked kicks (extra point and field goal) by Redbirds
8 -- ISU receivers who caught at least one pass
9.75 -- Average passing yards per attempt by ISU quarterback Jake Kolbe
89 -- The reported temperature at kickoff. However, the heat index was much higher on the turf field
After two road games, ISU returns to Hancock Stadium for a conference game against Indiana State. Saturday's kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.