Everything that has gone wrong for the Illinois State football team (4-4, 3-2 MVFC) on the road this season has gone right at home. The latest contest against the South Dakota Coyotes (4-4, 3-2 MVFC) did not prove to be any different, as the ’Birds controlled the game and improved their home record to 4-0 on the season with a 28-14 win Saturday at Hancock Stadium.
“I thought we competed well against a good team,” Brock Spack, head football coach, said. “We had to play well down the stretch, and we found a way to get off the field on defense a couple of times, so [I’m] pretty happy.”
Sophomore running back Marshaun Coprich continued to show growth at his position. Despite being stopped for a loss several times, he still managed to rush for over 100 yards (108 total) for the fourth week in a row. He had a career high in carries with 34.
“We got a nice run by Marshaun [Coprich] there in the second half to help separate ourselves,” Spack said.
Freshman quarterback Blake Winkler went 9-for-20 for 189 yards and a career high three touchdowns.
“[South Dakota’s] pass defense is the best in the conference,” Winkler said. “They really got after us on a lot of plays. One of our goals for this week was to complete a high percentage of passes on third-down. We knew that if they were able to stop the run on first and second-downs, we would have to make a play on third-down, like we were able to do a few times.”
The Redbirds were the first to get on the board with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Winkler to wide receiver Corey Shandrick, 7-0. It was Shandrick’s first touchdown reception of the year.
The Coyotes answered back on their next possession with a scoring-drive capped off by a 22-yard carry by Jordan Roberts, 7-7.
ISU regained the lead on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Winkler to Phil Dudley — who corralled in the fingertip catch. Minutes later, Winkler connected a 35-yard pass to Scott Kuehn for the first touchdown reception of his career. Redbirds led the Coyotes 21-7 with 9:04 remaining in the first half.
“[Catching his first touchdown pass] has been a long time coming,” Keuehn said. “I had my two catches earlier in the season, but there’s nothing like that first touchdown reception.”
The second half started well for the Redbirds. With just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, Illinois State cornerback Matt Goldsmith forced a fumble and recovered it, too, to give the offense good field position.
On the first play of the next drive for the offense, Coprich ran-in for a 27-yard touchdown, 28-7.
The Coyotes got back on the board on a two-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Earl to Terrance Terry. The Redbirds still led, 28-14, the eventual final score.