Courtesy of Illinois State Athletics
- In one of the most exciting finishes in school history, quarterback Matt Brown threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Walker with one second remaining in the fourth quarter, as the Illinois State football team (5-5, 4-4 MVFC) defeated Missouri Valley Football Conference rival Youngstown State (3-7, 1-6 MVFC) Saturday afternoon, 41-39, at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill.
After Youngstown State took a 39-35 lead with 27 seconds remaining in the game, the Redbirds broke into Penguin territory with a 33-yard completion from Brown to Marvon Sanders, which left the ball on the Penguin 40-yard line with eight seconds remaining. On the following play, Brown dropped back and fired a 40-yard bullet to Walker, who made an incredible touchdown grab to give the Redbirds a 41-39 lead with one second remaining. A squib kick-off with several laterals finally came to an end inside the Penguin 30-yard line, giving the Redbirds the 41-39 victory.
After punts on the first two drives of the game for both teams, Illinois State freshman defensive end Colton Underwood recovered a Youngstown State fumble at the Penguins’ 44-yard line, the first of his career. The Redbirds took advantage of the turnover, as Brown connected with Matt Younger on a 28-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was converted, giving Illinois State a 7-0 lead with 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Youngstown State answered back early in the second quarter, capping an eight-play, 46-yard scoring drive with a touchdown pass from quarterback Kurt Hess to David Rogers. The extra point was good, leaving tying the score at 7-7 with 9:39 left in the second quarter.
Illinois State wasted no time getting the lead back, as Brown found Walker for a 44-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was converted, giving the Redbirds a 14-7 lead with 5:28 left in the second quarter. The touchdown was Walker’s 10th of the season and extended his consecutive games with a touchdown streak to five for the Redbirds.
Youngstown State cut the Redbird lead to four points just before halftime, capping off a 16-play, 47-yard drive with a 38-yard field goal by Stephen Blose. That made the score 14-10 in favor of the Redbirds as both teams headed into the locker room at halftime.
The Redbirds came storming out of the gates in the second half. A seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive was capped by Brown’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Walker, their second connection of the day. The extra point was converted, giving Illinois State a 21-10 lead with 11:48 left in the third quarter.
The Penguins answered right back, as Jamaine Cook dashed into the end zone from one-yard out, and after the extra point was converted, Youngstown State had narrowed the Redbird lead to 21-17 with 9:47 left in the third quarter. The Penguins’ nine-play, 58-yard scoring drive was highlighted by Hess’ 32-yard completion to Dominique Barnes, which left the ball on the Illinois State one-yard line.
Illinois State responded with on its next possession, as Brown found Marcus King for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Brown’s fourth touchdown pass of the game capped a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive for the Redbirds, extending their lead to 28-17 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
King made his presence felt on special teams as well, blocking Youngstown State’s punt attempt on the Pengiuns’ 25-yard line. Defensive end Jake Detmers scooped the ball up at the Youngstown State two-yard line, and took it into the end zone for his first-career touchdown and the Redbirds’ second punt block return this season. The touchdown, followed by the converted extra point, extended the Redbird lead to 35-17 with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Youngstown State responded with a nine-play, 64-yard scoring drive, capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Hess to Cook, Hess’ second of the day. The extra point was converted, as the Penguins narrowed the Illinois State lead to 35-24 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
After a missed field goal by Illinois State on the following drive, Youngstown State marched into Illinois State territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the Illinois State 24-yard line after Hess’ fourth-down pass intended for Barnes was broken up by Illinois State’s E.J. Jones.
After an Illinois State punt, Youngstown State marched down the field on an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive, finished off by a 16-yard touchdown run by Cook. Hess then found Kevin Watts for the two-point conversion, leaving the score 35-32 in favor of the Redbirds with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter.
Illinois State was forced to punt again on the following drive, and downed the punt at the Youngstown State four-yard line with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter. Despite the unfavorable field position, the Penguins stormed down the field inside Illinois State’s 10-yard line, where Hess scampered into the end zone from six yards out. The 12-play, 96-yard scoring drive gave Youngstown State a 39-35 lead with 27 seconds remaining, setting the stage for the ISU’s offensive heroics.
Brown’s late touchdown pass to Walker was his fifth touchdown pass of the game and Walker’s third touchdown reception of the game. The sophomore quarterback’s five touchdown passes set a new personal high, surpassing his former record of three. Walker also surpassed his personal record for touchdown catches in a game and receiving yards (206), and tied his personal best in receptions in a game with nine. Sanders had 14 catches for 108 yards, his career-high, and also tied a school-record for receptions in a game.