Illinois State used a bit of the present and perhaps a bit of the future to defeat Youngstown State 35-28 and close out its 2018 season.
Junior James Robinson rushed for a career-high and Hancock Stadium record 256 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury. Freshman Kevin Brown and redshirt freshman Trenton Hatfield took over from there. Brown, an East St. Louis native, racked up 63 combined rushing and receiving yards and scored two touchdowns--including what proved to be the game-winner.
Hatfield, a quarterback converted to tailback, gained key yards late as the Redbirds held off the Penguins.
The win left ISU with a 6-5 record, assuring the Redbirds their ninth .500 or better finish in the last 10 seasons under head coach Brock Spack. However, ISU failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season. ISU ended with a 3-5 record in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Youngstown State finished at 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the league.
Senior receiver Spencer Schnell left his final ISU appearance with an injury. The Elkhart, Ind. native caught two passes for 25 yards before being sidelined.
A week ago, Schnell became the ninth receiver in Redbird history to eclipse the 2,000 yard receiving mark. His two touchdowns last week increased his career total to 14, tying him for eighth on the career list with James O'Shaughnessy and Cameron Meredith, both NFL players.
Schnell finished his career with 175 receptions, good for fifth on the school's career list, two behind Rickey Garrett.
Explosive play on defense
Illinois State scored on a three-yard touchdown pass by Brady Davis to senior tight end Tylor Petkovich early in the second quarter to grab a 14-3 lead.
The Petkovich touchdown was set up when ISU defensive end Jason Harris forced a fumble by Youngstown State quarterback Montgomery VanGorder. Redbird defensive tackle John Ridgeway scooped the fumble and returned it 32 yards to the YSU three-yard line.
Senior safety Mitchell Brees closed out his ISU career with an impressive performance.
The Wisconsin native broke up three passes and intercepted one. Brees was credited with four tackles, three of which were solo.
Salute to the military
Saturday's game was designated as Military Appreciation Day by the Redbirds. Illinois State wore a special helmet decal to mark the occasion.
5 Stats that mattered
2 — Illinois State interceptions of Youngstown State passes
7.5 — Yards per carry by ISU rushers
142— Rushing yards by Youngstown State's Tevin McCaster
420 — Total yards by Illinois State
1,290 — Rushing yards on the season for ISU's James Robinson, the first 1,000-yard Redbird since 2015
Illinois State opens next season Aug. 31 at Northern Illinois.