Jim Cornelison started Saturday’s annual Spack ’Stache Bash game between Illinois State and No. 7 South Dakota State University with a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and ISU continued his energy on the field, defeating the Jackrabbits 38-21 at Hancock Stadium.
The Redbirds jumped to an early lead thanks to quarterback Jake Kolbe, who ran 18 yards to put the Redbirds on the board with 13:13 left in the first. After the Jackrabbits stalled their first drive, ISU and Kolbe kept pushing. The Redbirds scored another touchdown with 5:14 left in the first, this time through the air to Anthony Warrum, increasing ISU’s lead to 14-0. ISU did what it hasn’t been able to do all season — score in the first quarter.
Kolbe completed 15-of-25 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
“[Kolbe] did some nice things,” ISU coach Brock Spack said. “I still think he’s on the cusp of greatness. I thought he missed a few throws out there ... and that’s what’s separating him from being good and great.”
The Jackrabbits were the first to strike in the second quarter, scoring a touchdown from a six-yard pass to wide receiver Jake Wieneke. The Redbirds responded four minutes later with a touchdown of their own. With 4:11 remaining Jamal Towns ran 14 yards to make the score 21-7 for ISU. SDSU continued to play catch-up, and scored another touchdown at 2:34, making the score 21-14 for the ’Birds.
Just when it seemed like that was going to be the score going into halftime, Kolbe completed another 21-yard pass to Warrum for a touchdown, upping the Redbird lead 28-14 with just 35 seconds left in the half.
The third quarter started, and just over three minutes later, the Jackrabbits scored the only points of the third quarter with a 30-yard field goal to make the score 28-21.
Just as SDSU was threatening to score, ISU safety DraShane Glass had a key interception in the endzone during the fourth quarter. ISU couldn’t convert on the turnover, but Glass shifted the momentum in favor of the Redbirds.
SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion completed 33-of-63 attempts for 430 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
ISU placekicker Sean Slattery converted a 42-yard field goal, but there was a personal foul against SDSU after the play. This allowed the Redbirds to move to the 13-yard line and, more importantly, take time off the clock. Slattery eventually converted another field goal, this time a 29-yarder to pad ISU’s lead 31-21.
“[Penalties] were a huge factor,” South Dakota State coach John Steigelmeier said. “You’ve got to play better than that. Cleaner than that. More disciplined than that. They were a huge.”
With 4:34 left in the game, La’Darius Newbold sealed the game after picking off Christion. Newbold ran it back 92 yards making the score 38-21.
On the following possession, just as the Jackrabbits were making their way down the field again, ISU redshirt freshman Willie Edwards again intercepted Christion, allowing ISU to run down the clock and secure the much needed win.
“This is huge for us, to come in and play as well as we did,” Warrum, who finished with five catches for 46 yards, said. “Finally as a team we get a taste of how good this team really is, and show people we’re not down and out. We’re still going to come and prepare every week to play just as hard.”
SDSU outgained ISU in total yardage with 513 yards compared to the Redbirds’ 347. But ultimately, ISU’s three interceptions made the difference. The Redbirds, who have struggled to force turnovers this season, had no shortage of them Saturday.
With the win, ISU improves to 4-5, 2-4 MVFC while SDSU suffers its first conference loss of the season, dropping to 5-3, 4-1 MVFC.
ISU will head to Macomb to face Western Illinois at 1 p.m. Saturday.