Ugly. Messy. Grinding.
Use whatever words necessary to describe Illinois State’s 36-19 win over Western Illinois on Saturday, but either way the end result was the same: the Redbirds are moving on to the Quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Although he struggled through the air once again, ISU quarterback Tre Roberson – 10-of-23 with 132 yards and one touchdown – led the Redbirds to a second round playoff win, putting in 111 yards on the ground while Marshaun Coprich exploded for 217 yards – his third straight 200-yard rushing game and the sixth of his career.
It was a game that crawled along with ISU taking a 7-6 lead into halftime that featured a pair of interceptions from Roberson, but the Leathernecks were only able to get three points out of the two combined turnovers.
Coming out of the break, WIU took a 12-7 lead early in the third quarter but the ‘Birds bounced right back for a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped off by a five-yard rushing touchdown by Roberson and the quarterback found Anthony Warrum in the end zone on the ensuing two-point conversion for a 15-7 lead.
Following another rushing score from Roberson, this time from 32 yards out, on a sprint up the right sideline after he turned the corner and exploded past several defenders to increase the advantage to 22-12. But WIU answered with a score from QB Sean Maguire to Jaelon Acklin. Maguire, filling in for injured starter Trent Norvell who missed the previous three games following an appendectomy, finished with 341 yards passing and two scores on 22-of-43 passing with an interception. But his performance was wasted in the loss.
“We got a win a football game, that’s my goal, that’s the team’s goal,” Maguire said. “All the other stuff it’s irrelevant unless you get a win.”
Roberson took a big hit on ISU’s ensuing drive but found Warrum for a 21-yard strike and Coprich broke off a 72-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach at 36-19 with under five minutes to play.
“This was a pretty typical Missouri Valley game but with playoff ramifications and intensity,” said head coach Brock Spack. “It’s difficult when you play a second game, a defensive game is usually what it turns into because the defenses, a lot of times, are able to adjust from what they did last time. Our players have been in a lot of close games and have been able to pull games out in the fourth quarter.”
The No. 2 seed Redbirds (10-2) will now host No. 7 Richmond (9-3) next Saturday at Hancock Stadium in the FCS Quarterfinals.
The Spiders are coming off a 48-13 thumping of William & Mary and are led by running back Jacobi Green and quarterback Kyle Lauletta.