No. 17 Redbirds Force Four Turnovers, Beat UNI 33-21
Matt Brown
Matt Brown

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Oct. 27, 2012

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Matt Brown's 49 yard touchdown pass to James O'Shaughnessy with 7:38 to play secured the victory, as No. 17 Illinois State (7-2, 4-2 MVFC) held off Northern Iowa (2-6, 1-4 MVFC) by a final score of 33-21 Saturday night at the UNI Dome. Illinois State remains undefeated away from Hancock Stadium with a 4-0 road mark in 2012.

The win was the first for the Redbirds at the UNI Dome since 2002 and only the team's third in 14 tries in Cedar Falls, Iowa. ISU's 7-2 start is its best since 2006, when the Redbirds opened the season 8-2.

On third-and-nine from the Northern Iowa 49 yard line, Brown evaded multiple tackles before scrambling right and connecting with a wide open O'Shaughnessy on the touchdown play. It was the longest reception of O'Shaughnessy's career and marked his first touchdown catch of the season.

Brown finished the game 22-for-27 for 274 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tyrone Walker led all receivers with seven receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. Walker finished the game with 3,038 career reception yards, passing Laurént Robinson (3,007) for the most career receiving yards in program history. Cameron Hunt led the running backs with 12 carries for 56 yards with one touchdown and Darrelynn Dunn had 11 carries for 29 yards with one score.

The Illinois State defense forced four turnovers, including Nate Palmer's sack and forced fumble in the closing minute of the game. For the third time this season, the Redbirds tallied three interceptions in one game, as Rickey Simpson, Mike Banks and Ben Eriksen each had takeaways. Illinois State now has 13 interceptions on the season, after registering only three all of last year. Mike Zimmer led the team with nine tackles and Shelby Harris tallied two sacks and recovered the fumble that sealed the victory.

Leading 19-14, Eriksen's midfield interception and 47 yard return to the UNI three-yard line opened the tense fourth quarter. It marked Eriksen's team-leading sixth interception of the season. Three plays later, Dunn lept into the end zone to give Illinois State a 26-14 lead with 10:43 to play.

Northern Iowa responded quickly, as quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen connected with Sam Rohr on a 34-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. David Johnson the carried the ball twice, scoring on a five-yard rush to make it 26-21 in favor of Illinois State with just under 10 minutes to play. Kollmorgen finished the game 20-for-48 for 218 yards with one passing touchdown and three interceptions.

The Panthers ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds and a personal foul penalty gave the Redbirds first down from the 50 yard line. Completed passes to Phil Dudley and Walker, coupled with an illegal blocking penalty set up Brown's game-clinching pass to O'Shaghnessy. The Illinois State offense finished with 397 yards of total offense in the victory.

Illinois State jumped out to a 19-0 lead in the opening half and never trailed in the game. On their first possession, Brown completed all five of his pass attempts, as the Redbirds covered 70 yards on nine plays. Cameron Hunt's 19-yard rush capped off the drive and put Illinois State in front 7-0.

After forcing a quick three-and-out, the Redbirds struck again, covering 80 yards on 11 plays. Dunn, Marshaun Coprich and Nick Bellamy all had carries, with Coprich breaking a 27-yard rush from midfield. On fourth and one from the one, Brown dove over the defensive line for the score. Nick Aussieker's extra point was blocked, making it 13-0 with 2:54 to go in the opening quarter.

Both teams exchanged possessions, before Patrick Wright's punt attempt was blocked deep in Redbird territory. UNI took over at the Redbird 16 yard line and three plays later, Simpson tallied his first career interception, catching a ball that was deflected by Zimmer. On the first play from scrimmage, Brown found Walker for a 72-yard touchdown completion, putting ISU ahead, 19-0. Aussieker's extra point sailed wide right.

UNI would add two quick scores going into halftime. Kollmorgen's six-yard rush touchdown put the Panthers on the board. Varmah Sonie would intercept Brown on ISU's next possession. Eight plays, and one pass interference penalty later, Kollmorgen found Chad Owens on a two-yard touchdown reception making it 19-14 going into halftime.

Both teams exchanged interceptions to open the second half. Brown's second pass of the half was intercepted by Wilmot Wellington. Three plays later, Banks intercepted Kollmorgen's pass and returned the ball to the Northern Iowa 28-yard line. Missed field goals from Nick Aussieker and Tyler Sievertsen kept the score tied at 19-14 going into the fourth quarter.

The Redbirds remain on the road and travel to Indiana State for a Missouri Valley Football Conference tilt, Saturday, Nov. 3, in Terre Haute, Ind. Kickoff is slated for 1:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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