No. 17 Redbirds Win Fifth-Straight, With 31-7 Win Against WIU
Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Nov. 5, 2011

Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery  Postgame Press Conference Play-by-Play Highlights

NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State defensive tackle Shelby Harris recorded one sack, 2.5 tackles-for-losses and six total tackles to lead the No. 17 Redbirds past Western Illinois, 31-7, in front of a 10,179 sell-out crowd at Hancock Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Redbirds have won five-straight games to improve to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with one remaining regular-season game. With the win, Illinois State becomes playoff eligible.

Clifton Gordon led the Redbird offense with 15 carries for 78 yards and one touchdown. Redbird quarterback Matt Brown finished 9-for-21 with 79 passing yards and one touchdown. Western Illinois (2-7, 1-5 MVFC) starting quarterback Josh Hudson was 5-for-11 for 65 yards, and backup Cody Reardon finished 6-for-11 for 39 yards. Reardon replaced Hudson, who was shaken up just before halftime. Theon Dixon topped the Leatherneck defense with 13 tackles, including one tackle-for-loss and one interception.

Illinois State opened the game with its longest scoring drive of the season, a 16-play, 72-yard series that took 8:18 and resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Nick Aussieker. An apparent Redbird touchdown by Darrelynn Dunn was annulled because of a holding penalty against Cal McCarthy during the drive, forcing ISU to settle for three points. The Leathernecks and the Redbirds proceeded to each punt twice before the first quarter ended with Illinois State leading, 3-0.

The Redbirds scored the game's first touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter to increase their advantage to 10-0. Brown faked a handoff to Dunn and broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run, which was Brown's longest-career rushing touchdown. Aussieker capped off the two-play, 16-second drive with an extra point.

Later in the second quarter, Aussieker attempted a 45-yard field goal, which was blocked by Western Illinois' Mike Garoppolo, and recovered by Maurice Hood who was tackled at the one-yard line. The Leathernecks went three-and-out and punted 23 yards to their own 31-yard line. Three plays later, Dunn sliced through the middle for a 20-yard touchdown run. Aussieker's point-after was good, increasing ISU's lead to 17-0 with 8:41 to play.

After advancing the ball into Redbird territory during the next drive, the Leathernecks turned the ball over with a pass by Hudson that was intercepted by ISU's Otis Merrill, his first-career pick. However, ISU went three-and-out, and Western Illinois started from its own 45-yard line. Seven plays later, the Leathernecks got on the board for the first time. Nikko Watson found an opening for a one-yard touchdown, and Pat Smith's extra point was good, cutting Illinois State's halftime lead to 17-7.

In the third quarter, Western Illinois drove the ball to ISU's 30-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs with a failed fourth-down attempt with four yards to gain. Austin Davis and Nate Palmer were credited with the quarterback hurry that led to Reardon's incomplete pass. After taking over on downs, the Redbirds drove 70 yards on seven plays, and scored with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Donovan Harden. The completion to Harden on fourth-down and 10 yards to go marked his first-career touchdown reception, and Aussieker's point-after increased Illinois State's lead to 24-7 at the end of the third quarter.

The Redbirds added to their lead early in the fourth quarter with a 13-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Gordon. Aussieker's extra point was once again good, increasing the advantage to 31-7, which proved to be the final score.

With one regular-season game remaining, the Redbirds are off next week with a bye. ISU returns to Hancock Stadium for senior day Saturday, Nov. 19 at 11 a.m. against Northern Iowa. Tickets are available by calling (309) 438-8000, or by visiting GoRedbirds.com.

GoRedbirds.com: Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.