As the last-second Indiana State field goal soared through the uprights, Western Illinois saw the bottom fall out of its playoff chances.
“We just didn't make enough plays at the end of the day," said head coach WIU head coach Jared Elliott of the 15-13 loss Saturday at Hanson Field in blustery Macomb. “That's what it comes down to; they made more than we did.”
Indiana State kicker Jerry Nunez made the final play, nailing a 26-yard field goal as time expired to give the Sycamores the all-important win.
Winless a season ago in 11 tries, Indiana State improved to 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Sycamores will learn their postseason fate Sunday when the NCAA announces its 24-team playoff field.
“It was just one of those days, even if we did get something going, we had to keep battling adversity,” Elliott said. “I think we gave ourselves a chance at the end and we just didn't make the plays we needed to when that moment arose. Having said all that, I'm so proud of our 21 seniors. I told them that they left our program better than when they found it, and they have a lot to be proud of."
An offensive pass interference call negated what would have been the game-tying touchdown by receiver John Bruner.
To add insult to injury, WIU’s Sam Crosa was wide right on the resulting field goal attempt.
Nunez and Crosa later traded field goals, leaving Western with a 13-12 lead and setting up Indiana State’s last-second heroics.
Senior Steve McShane broke off a 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage to open the second half. The TD jaunt and extra point by Crosa gave Western a 10-9 lead.
McShane, a Freeport High School graduate, finished his career with a 129-yard rushing performance. He also caught four passes for 33 yards.
5 Stats that mattered
3 — Western Illinois first downs in 13 attempts
5 — Sacks by Western Illinois
8 — WIU penalties for 90 yards
28 — Career sacks by Pete Swenson, tying him for the WIU record
1,031 — Career receiving yards by WIU’s Steve McShane
Western Illinois opens the 2019 season Aug. 29 at North Alabama.