3 things we learned: No. 3 NDSU smothers Illinois State offense in 20-0 shutout win

Illinois State defensive back Peyton Jones (7) tips away a pass Saturday in the Redbirds’ 20-0 loss to North Dakota State (Photo by Alex Gant, The Vidette)

A Homecoming crowd of 12,416 fans packed Hancock Stadium in Normal on Saturday. They saw the same story play out for the Redbird football team that has happened over the past decade against North Dakota State.

Illinois State managed a mere 99 yards of offense in a 20-0 loss Saturday to the No. 3 ranked Bison, which beat the Redbirds for the 11th time in a row.

Despite a good effort from its defense, the Redbirds (2-4) couldn’t dent the scoreboard against an NDSU team that ranks No. 1 in total defense in the FCS.

On its 11 drives, Illinois State moved into Bison territory three times – with the deepest penetration being the NDSU 36. ISU punted seven times, and two drives ended in interceptions.

The passing game was a major struggle for the Redbirds, who managed 40 yards and endured five NDSU sacks.

The loss was Illinois State’s second defeat by shutout this fall, and the Redbirds started Missouri Valley Football Conference play at 0-3 for the second time in the past two seasons. With the win, NDSU improved to 6-0, 3-0.

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

  1. Third down is a downer

ISU came into the game as the lowest-ranked offense and defense in the MVFC on third down this season.

That trend continued as the Redbird offense managed only two conversions on 11 tries. For the season, ISU is converting 25% of its third-down opportunities. On average, the offense is converting fewer than three third downs a game.

On defense, ISU allowed the Bison to successfully convert nine of 16 third downs Saturday. That increased opponents’ conversion rate to 51% against the Redbirds this season.

2. Defense does some work

Despite allowing 10 fourth-quarter points, the ISU defense managed a strong game against the Bison. In the first three quarters, they allowed 10 points, grabbed two interceptions and forced four punts on NDSU’s first nine drives.

Defensive backs Iverson Brown and Clayton Isbell both had interceptions for the Redbirds, while Isbell and linebacker Shannon Reid led all players with nine tackles each.

3. QB struggles

In his return from a shoulder injury, sophomore QB Bryce Jefferson was 4-for-18 passing for 40 yards and threw a pair of interceptions. He was sacked five times by the Bison.

At one point, ISU head coach Brock Spack inserted freshman Jackson Waring in an attempt to spark the offense.

“I told Bryce to stand over here and see how you’re being attacked,” Spack told Jake Sermersheim of The Vidette. “Sometimes that works having a guy look as a spectator. It wasn’t a benching or anything.”

Waring was 0-for-2 passing.

News and notes

Illinois State punter J.T. Bohlken achieved a 42-yard per kick average on his seven punts and booted two longer than 50 yards. … NDSU quarterback and Chicago native Quincy Patterson, a Virginia Tech transfer, outgained the Redbirds by himself, passing for 124 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 100 yards. He was the game’s leading rusher. … ISU defensive back Dillon Gearhart collected his first career sack. It was the only ISU sack on the day. The Redbirds managed only two quarterback hurries in the game. … Redshirt freshman running back Cole Mueller led the ISU ground game with 27 yards on eight carries. Seven different players recorded a rush for the Redbirds, who gained only 2.0 yards per carry against NDSU.

Where to find the game

ISU travels to Vermillion, S.D. for a 1 p.m. MVFC game against No. 21 South Dakota, which won Saturday at 16th-ranked Northern Iowa.

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