No. 24 Redbirds Open Newly-Renovated Hancock Stadium with 31-17 Win
Redshirt freshman QB Blake Winkler threw for 201 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
Redshirt freshman QB Blake Winkler threw for 201 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.

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Sept. 21, 2013

NORMAL, Ill. - Exactly 50 years to the date of Hancock Stadium's grand opening, the No. 24 Illinois State football team (1-2) christened its newly-renovated facility with a 31-17 victory over Abilene Christian (3-1). Saturday night's win marked ISU's fifth-consecutive home-opening victory under head coach Brock Spack and was played in front of a crowd of 11,029 Redbird fans.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Winkler made the most of his first-career start, guiding the Redbird offense to season-highs in points (31) and first downs (20). Winkler finished 18-for-25 for 201 yards with one touchdown, connecting with nine different receivers in the win. He also added 10 carries for 34 yards, which included a career-long 15 yard run. Illinois State compiled a season-best 165 rush yards, with Marshaun Coprich compiling 66 rush yards on 15 carries and Collin Keoshian adding 54 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Redbirds allowed a season-low 288 yards of total offense, registered a season-high five sacks and forced one turnover. David Perkins led the way with a career-best 2.5 sacks and a team-high six tackles. Pat Meehan added six tackles and one sack, and Mike Banks had five tackles and a forced fumble.

Josh Burch returned the opening kickoff 42 yards, giving ISU good field possession at its own 44 yard line. Winkler guided the Redbird offense on a seven-play, 56-yard touchdown drive. Facing a fourth-and-one from the Abilene Christian 10-yard line, Keoshian broke through the defensive line for a touchdown run, putting Illinois State in front 7-0. The Redbird defense collected its second takeaway of the season, after Abilene Christian drove deep into Redbird territory. Wildcats quarterback John David Baker completed a pass to DeMarcus Thompson to the Redbird 10-yard line, but Banks knocked the ball loose and Bradon Prate recovered to end the threat.

The Redbirds would then drive 74-yards over 14 plays to score on a season-long 35-yard field goal from Nick Aussieker. On the drive, Winkler collected an 11-yard rush for a first down, connected with James O'Shaughnessy for a first down gain on third-and-long, and went 23-yards for a first down to Anthony Warrum. The field goal put Illinois State on top 10-0 with 14:01 to play in the first half. Abilene Christian responded with a touchdown drive, scoring on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Baker to Darian Hogg. After forcing a Redbird punt, the Wildcats nailed a 27-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10 with 3:52 to play in the first half.

Another long return from Burch had Illinois State open the drive from its own 35 yard line. Winkler scrambled for a career-long 15 yards on the first play from scrimmage, moving the ball to midfield. The Redbirds then ran a play-action fake, with Winkler finding Phil Dudley for 29 yards and a first down. A block-in-the-back penalty erased a would-be Redbird touchdown. After an incomplete pass, Illinois State faced third down from the Abilene Christian 19-yard line. Winkler, on the run, fired a touchdown pass to Cameron Meredith, giving Illinois State a 17-10 lead with 1:48 to go in the first half.

The Redbirds added one more score before halftime, when Warrum recorded his first-career punt return for a touchdown, weaving 62 yards down the left sideline for a score as time expired to give Illinois State led 24-10 at the break. Late in the third quarter, ACU cut the ISU lead to 24-17 with an eight-play, 50-yard drive that culminated with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Baker to Hogg.

Illinois State capped the scoring midway through the fourth quarter. On third-and-long, Winkler found Corey Shandrick for 11 yards for a first down. Two plays later, Keoshian barreled 12 yards to put the ball at the 50 yard line. Winkler then evaded tackles for a 13-yard scramble for a first down. After Keoshian added seven yards on the ground, Winkler found Scott Keuhn for a 23-yard completion to the Abilene Christian three-yard line.

The Redbirds return to the road next week to open Missouri Valley Football Conference play, Sept. 28, at Missouri State. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. from Springfield, Mo.

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