When Illinois State and South Dakota State swapped a 64-yard and an 81-yard touchdown not even two minutes into Saturday’s football game at Hancock Stadium, the match seemed destined for an offensive shootout.
That changed in a hurry when the 12,144 Family Weekend crowd had its life sucked out after the Redbirds’ committed back-to-back fumbles that gave SDSU a great field position and led to two touchdowns.
The Jackrabbits (5-2, 3-2 MVFC) racked up 21 points in the second quarter, ultimately leading to SDSU’s 38-28 win over ISU, but the score could mislead those not in attendance.
The Redbirds (5-3, 2-3 MVFC) have dropped two straight games now, and took their first loss at Hancock Stadium this season.
First downs were difficult to come by for ISU, and the Jackrabbits defense bullied the Redbirds' offensive line all day.
Junior running back James Robinson was no help either, rushing for only 10 yards on 13 carries, and junior Markel Smith was held to five rushing yards on five carries.
“[The gameplan was] Just to play fast and physical. All [our] coaches, they get on us all the time to be physical, have grit, and screw with the o-linemen I guess,” SDSU defensive end Xavier Ward said.
In fact, senior quarterback Jake Kolbe, who entered the game to start the second half, was the leading rusher for ISU with 45 yards on five attempts.
“It was, 'Do your job.' [Defensive coordinator] Coach [Clint] Brown talks about do your one-eleventh all the time, and I don’t know if I’ve seen it done as good in my career because they’ve rushed the ball for a lot of yards and that young man [James Robinson] is a good football player, and our guys rose up,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said.
Junior quarterback Brady Davis was seen holding his shoulder at the end of the first half, and did not return in the game. He finished 11-for-18 with 181 yards and one touchdown.
ISU was forced to seven punts, and committed three turnovers.
The bright spot, however, came from wide receiver Andrew Edgar. The redshirt freshman compiled 202 receiving yards with nine catches and two touchdowns. Despite his standout day, it doesn't mean anything to Edgar without the win.
“We just didn’t come out the way we wanted to. I know we kind of started off fast in the beginning offensively, but we just weren’t consistent all day and we’re just going to put this one behind us and move onto Northern Iowa,” Edgar said.
Kolbe finished 15-for-23 for 183 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception.
“I was proud of Jake Kolbe, really proud the way he came off the bench and he played very well. He competed, just like I knew he would, that’s who he is. He really sparked us in the second half, and he’s been waiting his turn, he got his chance, and he did a great job today, so that’ll be good moving forward,” Spack said.
Kolbe's solid outing, paired with Davis' unknown injury status, could lead to another change at starting quarterback for ISU, as Spack said he is "absolutely" considering a change under the circumstances.
“I think I was ready to go from the start, I practice every week like I’m going to play, so these are guys I’ve worked with for a long time,” Kolbe said.
SDSU senior quarterback Taryn Christion and sophomore wide receiver Cade Johnson heard their names often.
Johnson compiled 131 yards on eight catches and a touchdown, while Christion totaled 292 yards, going 18-for-28 with three touchdowns.
ISU bounced back with 21 fourth-quarter points, but that did not erase the big hole it dug itself in in the first half.
The Redbirds hit the road next week for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Northern Iowa Saturday.