On Saturday the Illinois State University football team took down Western Illinois 28-14 thanks to a three sack performance from the defense.
Forcing five turnovers was the key for ISU (5-2, 2-1) to hand the Leathernecks (0-7, 0-3) their seventh straight loss at Hanson Field in Macomb.
“They just don’t go away. This team does not look like a 0-7 team. I am stunned they are 0-7, that is a good football team,” ISU head coach Brock Spack said.
“They just make mistakes at critical times and cannot finish.”
Winning the turnover battle proved to be huge as the Redbirds were outplayed on the offensive side. The Leathernecks put up 375 total yards of offense, while the Redbirds chalked up 279 yards.
Despite moving the chains better than the ’Birds, Western was unable to find any momentum and reach the end zone thanks to big plays at the goal line for the Redbirds.
Junior cornerback Devin Taylor came up with his first interception of the season. Western ran a trick play with running back Tony Tate looking to throw downfield, but Taylor spoiled the attempt as he intercepted Tate’s pass at the one-yard line.
After a dropped interception, Taylor was able to bounce back with his first pick.
“I have been waiting all year to get one. I dropped a couple last year too, so it was a long time coming,” Taylor said.
Illinois State used an offensive running attack led by Jeff Proctor and James Robinson to tally 149 rushing yards. Proctor led the pair with 81 yards and a touchdown. “I thought Jeff had a really good day, probably his best of the season. He is very fast and sudden, but he can be physical,” Spack said.
The speedy Proctor gave the Leathernecks a different look than the power-back Robinson.
“He is a little quicker and faster than James and you could tell that caught them off guard,” Spack said.
Proctor found the end zone for the first time this season. Late in the fourth quarter, Proctor added insurance as he raced his way from the seven-yard line for his first touchdown as a Redbird.
“The offensive line opened it up for me. It makes it easy when I do not get touched until the second level. I found those holes then hit it; we got the look that we wanted and capitalized,” Proctor said.
Robinson’s 68 rushing yards are his lowest of the season since he notched just 16 against Northern Illinois, but he found the end zone three times.
Robinson scored his first of three touchdowns, taking the outside edge to slip in for a 16-yard touchdown run opening the game. He found the end zone twice more with a two-yard touchdown run to end the first half and a seven-yard touchdown run to open the second half.
Western quarterback Connor Sampson torched the Redbirds’ pass defense thanks to an uptempo offense that notched 270 yards in the air.
“It was a very fast-paced offense. They kept nickel and diming us on long drives. Those long drives add up. We had to just settle in and make a stop,” Taylor said. “When crunch time happened, we got those stops.”
After getting roughed up 37-3 by North Dakota State, the Redbirds have used solid defense for back-to-back wins.
“We emphasize this time of year that you have to find a way to get an edge because you are what you are now. We were able to close the game out in all three phases,” Spack said.
“Being able to do that two weeks in a row is huge. Gaining that confidence is really important.”