The Illinois State Redbirds’ season ended with a 31-24 loss Saturday evening at the hands of the Central Arkansas Bears, in the first round of the FCS playoffs. ISU’s season ends with a 6-6 overall record.
The Redbirds jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and appeared to have a strangle hold on the flow of the game, and they had all the momentum. The Bears scored in the second quarter to cut the lead to three, and the Redbirds responded quickly to make it 17-7.
The ISU offense could not get anything going in the third quarter, and the field position battle was won by the Bears for most of the second half. ISU was pinned back to its own end zone multiple times in the latter half of the game. Central Arkansas scored 24 points in the fourth quarter.
The play that changed the game was a blocked punt for a touchdown deep in the Redbirds’ end. Punter Reece Attard had no chance to get the punt off, and the Bears scooped up the ball and walked into the end zone making the score 17-14.
There was a personal foul penalty on ISU causing the kickoff to be moved to midfield. Having all the momentum, the Bears caught ISU sleeping and pulled off a successful onside kick, allowing them to score another touchdown on the ensuing drive.
ISU responded to tie the game at 24-24 with a pass from Quarterback Jake Kolbe to Anthony Warrum for a 55-yard touchdown. The Redbird defense was on the field the majority of the second half, and it caught up to them in the fourth quarter.
The Redbird defense held Bear quarterback Hayden Hildebrand to 18-of-36 (50 percent) passing, and intercepted him once in the first quarter. Hildebrand was also sacked twice in the game. The Bears had just 70 yards rushing in the contest.
Senior linebacker Brent Spack, son of head coach Brock Spack led the team in tackles for the second consecutive game, with nine tackles (four solo). Cornerback Davontae Harris had four solo tackles, and an interception in the first quarter of the game.
Kolbe finished the game 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) for 208 yards with two touchdowns, and he was sacked three times. Kolbe also fumbled the ball twice, one of which was recovered by the Bears.
Warrum in his final game in a Redbird uniform led all ISU receivers in yards with 75, 55 of which came on one play. Warrum hauled in both of Kolbe’s touchdown passes in the game. Spencer Schnell led the team in receptions with 5, totaling 45 yards.
ISU had a lot of success running the ball in the first half, but not nearly as much in the second half. DeMarco Corbin had 14 carries for 74 yards and the opening touchdown on the afternoon. Jamal Towns had 18 carries for 72 yards.
Central Arkansas will now travel to play No. 2 seed Eastern Washington Saturday in the second round of the playoffs. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.