Despite 2012’s winning road record, the Illinois State football team has yet to find its groove away from Hancock Stadium this year, as the Redbirds suffered its fourth away defeat this season after falling to No. 16 Missouri Valley Conference foe Youngstown State, 59-21, on Saturday.
The Redbirds (2-4, 1-2 MVFC) allowed the Penguins (6-1, 3-0 MVFC) a season-high of 569 yards of total offense, including a career-
performance from YSU quarterback Kurt Hess, who threw for 311 yards and completed 17-of-21 passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
“[Hess] just killed us,” head coach Brock Spack told WJBC Radio. “We did a really poor job technically in certain parts of the game. We’ve really been emphasizing fundamentals in the front half of the season, now we’re at the back half, and that’s what you just have to keep doing with an inexperienced team.”
ISU quarterback Blake Winkler finished 15-for-23 for 221 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the ’Birds and seven different players tallied receptions for the Redbirds. Phil Dudley led ISU with five receptions and Cameron Meredith totaled 93 receiving yards with one touchdown.
Marshaun Coprich earned his second-consecutive 100-yard rush game with 110 rush yards on 14 carries with one score.
“They compete pretty hard,” Coprich told WJBC Radio. “It’s just mistakes in the game that killed us. It’s very difficult being down three touchdowns and having to come back from that deficit.
“At home, that’s where the energy is, but we need to bring that to away games too. If we had that energy when we’re away, half of these teams probably couldn’t compete with us.”
ISU opened the game and scored first. The 88-yard opening drive included two completed passes and long runs from Winkler, Coprich and Dudley to set up first-and-goal from the YSU two-yard line. Collin Keoshian then drove through the Penguin defense to score, giving ISU the 7-0 lead.
YSU answered with a 75-yard scoring drive of its own, tying the game at 7-7 on a 40-yard touchdown pass. The Penguins then tacked on two more scores, one on a 26-yard run and another on a 67-yard pass to stack up its lead, 28-7, halfway through the second quarter.
“We come out well, we play well early, and then when they respond, we don’t respond,” Spack said. “By the time we kind of get our bearings back, we’re down by three or four scores. We have to get over that. It’s part of maturing. We have to do a better job of regaining our momentum when we don’t have it, and keeping it when we do have it, particularly on the road.”
Before halftime, Winkler helped ISU tally another score on a career-long 73-yard completion to Meredith for a touchdown to put ISU within 28-14. YSU tacked on a field goal and a touchdown before the break to lead 38-14 heading into the locker rooms.
To open the second half, the Penguins tallied two more touchdowns before ISU could find the end zone again on a Coprich 23-yard run.
YSU got the last word on the night, scoring a 21-yard touchdown to secure its 59-21 victory.
ISU will return home Saturday for an MVFC game against Indiana State.