Field Goal Sinks Redbirds in Overtime
Nov. 15, 2008
MACOMB, Ill. - Eyad Salem had four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown during an Illinois State game-tying drive to force overtime, but a 34-yard field goal by Taylor Rowan pushed Western Illinois past the Redbirds, 48-45, at Hanson Field Saturday.
Salem caught a 12-yard pass from Kevin Brockway with under a minute left to tie the contest at 45, but an attempt to repeat the connection on the opening possession of overtime resulted in an interception in the end zone. Western Illinois ran the ball three times to open their possession and set up the game-winning kick by Rowan, his second field goal of the game.
Illinois State running backs Walter Mendenhall and Geno Blow combined to rush for 203 yards and four touchdowns, but the duo was outdone by Western Illinois tailback Herb Donaldson. Donaldson rushed for three touchdowns and 243 yards and tied the Missouri Valley Football Conference record of 22 games over 100 yards. Salem caught 11 balls for 111 yards.
Mendenhall scored on runs of six and 18 yards in the first half and added a third to begin the fourth quarter while rushing for 106 yards on 17 carries. Blow carried the ball 24 times for 97 yards and reached the end zone in the third quarter.
Illinois State's defense allowed over 400 yards for the sixth-consecutive game, but notched back-to-back stops in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to tie. Mendenhall's 3-yard run in the fourth and a field goal by Steven Fetzer marked a 10-point swing for the Redbirds (3-7, 2-5 MVFC) and tied the game at 38. Donaldson and the Leathernecks (6-4, 4-3 MVFC) reached the end zone with 2:36 left to put Western Illinois up again and set up the final drive for Illinois State.
Brockway completed 5-of-8 passes while leading the Redbirds down the field and found Salem on the right side of the end zone to cap the 61-yard drive. Fetzer's extra point try tied the game and the Illinois State defense held to force overtime.
In overtime, Illinois State moved inside the 1-yard line and appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown but an illegal shift moved the Redbirds back five yards and negated the play. On second and goal from the five, Brockway threw at the feet of Kedric Meredith and on third down, a lob to Salem on the left side was tipped and intercepted by Robert Hodges.
Both teams traded scores in a back-and-forth first half, including a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Illinois State's Tom Nelson to answer a Western Illinois touchdown pass in the second quarter. Nelson's return was his second kick return of the season and fifth-longest kickoff return in ISU history. The Leathernecks entered the half with a 31-21 lead, taking advantage of two Redbird turnovers in the first half.
Illinois State was outgained 449-381 in total yards, including a 315-206 mark on the ground. Illinois State lost a fumble and threw two interceptions while the Leathernecks finished the contest with no turnovers.
The Redbirds close the 2008 season with Southern Illinois at Hancock Stadium next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. As part of the game, Illinois State will honor its graduating senior class.