3 things we learned: Late North Dakota TD spoils defensive day for Illinois State
today at 9:14 pm
Leaning on defense and field position has helped Illinois State’s football team earn two victories in the past month. A third win via a low-scoring struggle eluded the Redbirds Saturday in Grand Forks, N.D.
Illinois State held North Dakota more than 60 yards under its season rushing average but allowed a 3-yard touchdown pass by UND backup quarterback Quincy Vaughn with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left in the game and lost, 14-7, in a Missouri Valley Football Conference road game.
The Redbirds tied the game at 7-all early in the fourth quarter when freshman quarterback Jackson Waring threw a 28-yard scoring strike to 6-foot-6 tight end Brett Spaulding for the fellow freshman’s first career TD catch.
The loss dropped ISU to 4-6 overall, 2-5 in the MVFC. North Dakota improved to 5-5, 3-4.
UND outgained Illinois State, 348-164, thanks to an efficient passing game, led by starting QB Tommy Schuster’s 19-for-25 effort (76%) for 233 yards.
Here are three things Prairie State Pigskin learned about the Illinois State loss:
No passing fancy
Illinois State entered the game with the 118th-ranked passing offense in FCS at 121.7 yards a game. On Saturday, they managed a mere 84 yards in the air with starter Jackson Waring (7-for-13) and backup Bryce Jefferson (1-for-2).
Third down continues to be a struggle as the Redbirds converted just four times in 12 opportunities.
ISU quarterbacks were sacked five times Saturday, increasing the season total to 31 sacks, the third-most allowed among MVFC teams.
2. Defense does it again
On defense, the Redbirds allowed 20 or fewer points for the fourth time in the past five games.
ISU limited the Hawks to 16 first downs and forced two fumbles.
North Dakota had only two of its 11 drives go for 50 yards or longer.
Standout UND running back Otis Weah gained 80 yards on the day on 17 carries, but one run accounted for 40 yards of his total.
ISU safety Iverson Brown had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
3. Record rush continues
ISU freshman running back Cole Mueller continued his quest to set the school’s rookie rushing record. His 90 rushing yards against UND gave Mueller 878 for the season, which leads the Redbirds.
Mueller would need 229 yards next weekend against Indiana State in the season finale to surpass the freshman record of 1,106 yards set by Cameron Smith in 1993.
News and notes
Spaulding’s TD catch was only the third reception of his career. … Senior wide receiver Austin Nagel caught three passes for 21 yards, his most receptions in a game for ISU since September. … Redshirt freshman defensive back Dillon Gearhart and junior defensive lineman Braydon Deming both had sacks for the Redbirds. … Joshua Wright, a freshman from Springfield Lanphier High School, got his first career start for the Redbirds, getting the nod at left guard.
The Redbirds host Indiana State at noon on Saturday, Nov. 20 in Normal in the season finale for both teams.