With the win, Illinois State opened the season with three
consecutive victories for the first time since 1991.
Brown set Illinois State single-game records with 473 passing
yards and 42 completions and tied his career high with five
touchdown passes in the game. He also added a career-high two
rushing touchdowns, making him responsible for seven total on the
Walker led the receivers with 11 receptions for 142 yards and the
game-winning touchdown reception. Sophomore Lechein Neblett tied a
career best with nine receptions and totaled a career-high 132 yards
with a touchdown. Donovan Harden also added career highs across the
board, with nine catches for 94 yards and two scores.
Illinois State amassed 533 total yards of offense, while EIU
totaled 509. The game included 32 total penalties for a combined 276
yards, including 22 penalties for 178 yards against the Redbirds.
The 105 combined points scored were the most between the two teams
in the 101-year history of the rivalry.
Defensively, the Redbirds totaled three interceptions for the
second consecutive week, with Alex Donnelly, Mike Banks and Ezra
Thompson each recording one. Colton Underwood set career highs with
13 tackles, three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, while Mike Zimmer
led all defenders with a career-best 15 tackles.
ISU had possession first to open overtime and promptly scored on
a three-play drive. Brown connected twice with Neblett before
finding Harden for a 7-yard touchdown completion. Eastern Illinois
quickly answered and took advantage of two pass interference
penalties, before Taylor Duncan registered a 2-yard touchdown run,
knotting the game at 48-48 and sending it to a second overtime
In the second overtime, the Panthers had the ball first and
converted a 40-yard field goal attempt from Cameron Berra to make
the score 51-48. Brown's first pass attempt to Walker sailed high,
but the next pass caught the wideout in stride for the walk-off win
and the 54-51 victory.
Illinois State had erased a 10-point deficit with 9 minutes to
play in the game, with the comeback orchestrated by two pass-heavy
drives. Trailing 38-28, Brown and the offense covered 83 yards on
eight plays, scoring on a 20-yard dash from Cameron Hunt. A fumbled
extra-point attempt made it 38-34 EIU with 5:54 to play. After the
ISU defense forced a punt, the Redbirds regained possession on their
own 3-yard line with no timeouts and 2:16 to play. Brown completed
six of seven passes, including a 13-yard touchdown toss to Harden
for the 41-38 lead. Eastern Illinois promptly responded with a
76-yard drive on eight plays, as Berra hit a game-tying field goal
as time expired to force overtime.
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Just under four hours before the game-winning touchdown, Illinois
State struck first on a defensive score. Panthers quarterback Jimmy
Garoppolo's third-down pass attempt was tipped by Shelby Harris and
intercepted by Donnelly, who would return it 30 yards for the score
and a 7-0 ISU lead. The Panthers immediately responded on a 4-yard
touchdown run from Duncan.
Eastern Illinois would find pay dirt again minutes later on a
quick, three-play, 65-yard drive that took only 32 seconds off the
clock. A 44-yard pass to Chris Wright put Eastern Illinois deep in
Illinois State territory. After a roughing-the-passer penalty on ISU,
Eastern scored on an 11-yard dash from Duncan, his second touchdown
of the game. Duncan finished the game with 24 carries for 96 yards
and three touchdowns, leading the Panthers' ground attack.
Illinois State would then tie the game on the next possession,
going 86 yards for a touchdown. On the drive, Brown connected with
Walker three times, before finding Neblett for a 19-yard touchdown
pass, tying the game at 14-14. Berra's 44-yard field goal in the
closing seconds of the opening half gave Eastern Illinois a 17-14
lead at the break.
The Panthers scored on their first drive of the second half when
Garoppolo completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Erik Lora, making it
24-14 EIU. On the next drive, Illinois State went 70 yards on five
plays, highlighted by a 40-yard completion from Brown to Neblett.
Three plays later, Brown carried the ball 11 yards for the rush
touchdown, his first score on the ground in the game.
Illinois State would get the ball back, and on fourth-and-1
Darrelynn Dunn carried the ball 16 yards for a first-and-goal from
the 1-yard line. Brown scored on a keeper on the next play, giving
Illinois State a brief 28-24 lead.
Eastern would mount consecutive scoring drives, first on a
12-yard pass from Garoppolo to Erik Lora, and then minutes later on
a 13-yard run from Jake Walker, making it 38-28 before the Illinois
State comeback. Garoppolo finished the day 37 for 61 with 387 yards
passing and two touchdown passes.
Illinois State hits the road next week for its Missouri Valley
Football Conference opener Sept. 22 against Western Illinois.
Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. in Macomb. The game will be broadcast
live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, with Kurt Pegler and former ISU
all-American linebacker Boomer Grigsby on the call.
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