#8 UNI Denies Redbird Victory; Wins 31-17
Oct. 11, 2008
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The Illinois State offense failed to convert on a pair of fourth-and-short opportunities midway in the second half and weren't able to keep up with No. 8 Northern Iowa, as the Redbirds were downed, 31-17, in a Missouri Valley Football Conference tilt Saturday at the UNI-Dome. The loss drops ISU to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
Head coach Denver Johnson and his staff effectively managed the first half against the Panthers (4-2, 2-1), trailing 17-10, but the Redbird offense stalled on the potential game-tying drive to open the second half. As a result, UNI regained control on its first second-half drive with an 8-yard touchdown run by Panther quarterback Pat Grace to give UNI a 24-10 lead at the 5:33 mark in the third quarter.
ISU still had time to mount a comeback, but facing a fourth-and-three situation at the UNI 8-yard line, ISU quarterback Kevin Brockway threw his first of two interceptions when his pass was picked off in the end zone by UNI's Terrell McMoore. Brockway completed 24-of-41 passes for 202 yards. Junior Eyad Salem was Brockway's top target with seven catches for 85 yards.
On the next ISU drive, still trailing 24-10, the Redbird offense found itself fourth-and-one at the UNI 16-yard line, but Brockway's pass to Marcus King was low and wide, forcing ISU to turn the ball over on downs at the 14:39 mark in the fourth quarter. The Redbirds finished the game 5-for-7 on fourth-down tries.
On the following drive, UNI sealed the victory as Grace posted his second touchdown run, this time from three yards out, for a 31-10 UNI lead. Grace led all rushers with 99 yards in the contest. ISU's Parrish Fisher added an 8-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left in the game for the final score. Fisher led ISU with 75 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Trailing 10-0, the Redbirds got on the board at the 10:41 mark of the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal by Steven Fetzer. The UNI defense didn't make it easy as the ISU drive covered 69 yards on 20 plays and took 9:50 off the clock. The drive was the longest of the season for the Redbirds in both plays and time of possession.
ISU's methodical drive didn't slow down the UNI offense. Five plays after Fetzer's field goal, the Panthers claimed a 17-3 lead after Grace connected on a 50-yard touchdown pass to Victor Williams. The Redbird offense returned to the field and countered with a 16-play, 86-yard scoring drive that resulted with a 1-yard touchdown run by Brockway. The ISU score closed the gap to 17-10, and gave the Redbirds an opportunity to regain control after deferring the decision on the game-opening coin toss.
UNI jumped out to a 7-0 lead after taking the opening drive 72 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown. The drive culminated with a 5-yard pass from UNI's Pat Grave to Ryan Mahaffey, which was the first touchdown allowed by the Redbird defense since the fourth quarter of the Eastern Illinois game.
After holding the Redbird offense to a three-and-out, the Panthers again moved the ball down field. The ISU defense bent, but didn't break, and held UNI to a 33-yard field goal by Billy Hallgren after the Panthers gained 75 yards on the drive.
Illinois State returns to action next Saturday, when the Redbirds return to Hancock Stadium for the first time since Sept. 20. The Redbirds will host Missouri State for Homecoming 2008. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.