3 things we learned: FBS Western Michigan tames Illinois State up front

Illinois State QB Bryce Jefferson was under pressure all day against Western Michigan in the Redbirds’ 28-0 loss to the FBS Broncos. (Photo by GoRedbirds.com)

With 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in Saturday’s football game between Illinois State and Western Michigan, the lights at WMU’s Waldo Stadium went dark.

Over the previous 50-plus minutes of game time, WMU used a dominant defensive front and a powerful offensive line to power past the Redbirds, 28-0, in a non-conference game.

“It’s a line of scrimmage game,” Redbird head coach Brock Spack told WJBC radio. “They beat us up front, on both sides of the football. It came down to physicality up front.”

On offense, the Broncos, of the FBS Mid-American Conference, bulldozed their way to 233 yards on the ground, the most allowed by Illinois State in a game since 2019.

The WMU defense limited Illinois State to 57 total yards, including 1.1 yards per carry on the ground, and only four first downs in the game.

“We knew they were going to be good,” ISU offensive lineman Drew Bones said. “They were all around physical. They were fast. They did a lot of twists and movement.”

Here are three things Prairie State Pigskin learned about the Illinois State game:

  1. Offense sputters

The Redbirds gained a mere 57 total yards and managed four first downs while being shut out for the first time since 2012. The leading rusher for ISU was wide receiver Jalen Carr, who gained 13 yards on only one carry.

Quarterback Bryce Jefferson, who was under consistent pressure all day, finished 8-for-19 passing for 29 yards and threw an interception. He was sacked four times.

“First down was really rough,” Spack said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”

2. Run down feeling

Western Michigan (1-1) rushed the ball 51 times with six different players, led by La’Darius Jefferson, who rolled up 106 yards on 18 carries. He scored two of the Broncos’ touchdowns.

“There was a lot of leaky yardage, leaky tackling,” Spack said. “We couldn’t get off blocks.”

3. Big play limits

While WMU piled up more than 400 total yards, the Redbird defense did not allow a play of longer than 30 yards. The longest run allowed was 21 yards.

News and notes

ISU defensive linemen Josh Dinga and Michael Gomez both had fumble recoveries for the Redbirds, who won the turnover battle, 2-1. … Illinois State punter J.T. Bohlken had a strong day, averaging 49.8 yards per punt on nine kicks. His longest of the day was 64 yards, which was one of six kicks of 50 or more yards. … Linebackers Kenton Wilhoit (nine), Shanon Reid (eight) and Zeke Vandenburgh (seven) led the Redbirds in tackles. … WMU quarterback Kaleb Eleby was very efficient, completing 15 of 21 passes (71%) for 147 yards.

What’s next?

Illinois State travels to Charleston to face in-state rival Eastern Illinois (0-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.

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