After two weeks of head-scratching, disappointing losses on the road to unranked teams, Illinois State rebounded with its most impressive win of the season by upsetting previously unbeaten South Dakota 37-21.
Playing at home for the first time since Sept. 30, ISU utilized big plays, a renewed confidence and Homecoming atmosphere to upend USD, which entered Hancock Stadium as the nation’s fourth-ranked FCS team.
The triumph raised Illinois State’s record to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. South Dakota suffered its first loss of the year, falling to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the league.
The Redbirds came out looking nothing like the team that had stumbled in one-sided losses at Northern Arizona and Southern Illinois in consecutive weeks. ISU running back James Robinson opened the game with an 11-yard run. Three plays later on a third-and-five, junior receiver Spencer Schnell caught a pass over the middle and raced 64 yards for a touchdown just 90 seconds into the game.
Before the quarter was out Schnell hauled in another TD reception. He later set up a Robinson touchdown run by reeling in a 71-yard catch to the USD 14.
Schnell, whose father Dave quarterbacked Indiana to wins over Michigan and Ohio State 30 years ago, finished the day with a career-best 191 receiving yards.
Illinois State quarterback Jake Kolbe was 12-of-19 for 236 yards, all but 45 of which went to Schnell.
Robinson established a season high in rushing yards (193). His fourth quarter 87-yard touchdown run sealed the ISU victory.
In the meantime, the Redbird defense also produced big plays. While South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler set program records for completions (39) and attempts (63) in throwing for a career-high 440 yards, Illinois State also caused senior to throw his first two interceptions of the season.
The 24th-ranked Redbirds kept pressure on the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Streveler. ISU recorded 10 hurries–five by senior Adam Conley–and two sacks. The Redbirds also broke up six passes.
Players of the game
Junior receiver Spencer Schnell caught seven passes for a career-high 191 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore running back James Robinson rushed for 193 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Senior defensive lineman Dalton Keene had seven tackles (four solo), two tackles-for-loss, two sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Senior defensive back Davontae Harris led ISU with 11 tackles (eight solo), an interception and a quarterback hurry.
By the numbers
3 — Field goals by Illinois State senior Sean Slattery
8 — “Explosive” plays by Illinois State (runs over 12 yards and passes over 20 yards)
8.6 — Yards-per-play average by ISU
11 — South Dakota penalties for 123 yards
26 — Fewer points South Dakota scored Saturday than its season average coming into the game
50 — Success percent in red zone by USD (2-for-4); the Coyotes entered the game with an 80 percent success rate
1,121 — Combined total yards by the two teams (ISU 567, USD 554)
Illinois State plays at Youngstown State at 1 p.m. Oct. 28