The loss of Brady Davis was felt in Illinois State University football’s 21–3 loss to Youngstown State.
Freshmen quarterbacks Jack Baltz and Bryce Jefferson were unable to establish a consistent pass game for the ’Birds. With the passing attack not a viable option, the Penguins played the rush attack very aggressively limiting the Redbirds to 112 on yards on 41 carries (2.7 yards per carry).
"Basically, what I said I didn’t think we played well early. We have to tackle better. Everyone has to take responsibility for the loss," ISU head coach Brock Spack said. "We had some guys open late for touchdowns and took sacks instead of getting them off."
Both teams showcased the future of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, showing four young quarterbacks. Both teams used a duo of quarterbacks to run their offense. Sophomore Joe Craycraft and true freshman Mark Waid led YSU while Baltz and Jefferson led the Redbirds.
Baltz earned the starting nod for the Redbirds. But Baltz was unable to lead the Redbirds, throwing 1-9 for seven yards and two interceptions with eight rushing yards in as many attempts. Baltz and his receivers were unable to get on the same page with off throws and dropped balls throughout Baltz’s stint.
YSU’s quarterback duo found much more success. The duo combined for a respectable 8-15 for 83 yards.
Waid added another look for the Penguins as a threat to run out of the backfield. Waid rushed for 58 yards on 13 attempts. Craycraft found some success on the ground too, picking up a quarterback sneak touchdown with 13 seconds left in the first half that put YSU up 14-3.
With 2:09 remaining in the third quarter, Jefferson was given the nod to see if he could lead the Redbirds out of the hole. But Jefferson was unable to right the ship, throwing 2-7 for 23 yards and an interception.
The game was decided by the team’s front line control. The Penguins dominated both sides of the ball, finding the house for six sacks for a total loss of 42 yards to the Redbirds’ two sacks for a loss of just five yards.
ISU and Jefferson have a decision to make soon on preserving Jefferson's redshirt season.
"He (Jefferson) had bright eyes today, the argument is that next week he will play better after playing in a tough game," Spack said. "We don't know if we want to burn the red shirt, we will talk and see what is best for him and us."
The only 'Bird that had success finding the backfield was Christian Uphoff who lead the Redbirds with four tackles for loss. Steve Podkulski and Romeo McKnight each picked up a sack for ISU.
Since Jefferson did not appear to be the answer, the Redbirds brought Baltz back in for another look with a little over five minutes left. But trouble quickly rose as Baltz took a sack before throwing an interception to Zaire Jones.
Taking it at the 30-yard line, Jones took it to the house burying any chance of a Redbirds comeback.
In the final regular-season game of his Redbird career, James Robinson finished with 82 yards on 22 carries.
“We knew they would stack the box since the pass game was not working well, we should have done a better job of spreading them out,” Robinson said. “It is just about getting into the playoffs and starting over.”
Robinson finished the game atop the MVFC with 1,316 yards.
"It means a lot, I just do whatever to help my team. Throughout the season my offensive line helped a lot this season," Robinson said. "They opened up some big holes for me today especially when they know what is coming. It is tough to run in the Valley."
The loss moves the Redbirds to 8-4 and 5-3 in MVFC play. The loss will ensure the Redbirds will play on Nov. 30 with the selection show coming Sunday.