Spring Report #15: Defense Ends Spring with 55-46 Win
April 19, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. -
Coming off a 100-plus national ranking in most defensive categories last season, the Illinois State defense laid the groundwork for the 2008 campaign with an impressive 55-46 win over the Redbird offense in the annual Red-White Scrimmage at Hancock Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The offense jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 100-play scrimmage, with a single point being awarded for a first down in the non-traditional scoring system, on three-straight first-down runs by junior running back Geno Blow. The defense took its first lead in the game, at 8-6, with its second of three-straight three-and-outs (3 points each).
"The scoring system we have for this game kind of illustrates some things," said head coach Denver Johnson. "If you don't make first downs, you are going to get beat. If you have a lot of penalties that prevent you from making first downs, you are going to get beat. If you have a lot of turnovers, you are going to beat."
The Redbird defense maintained its lead throughout the first half, which was a 45-minute running clock, and held an eight-point advantage at halftime, 22-14. The lead didn't last long as the ISU offense, behind the arm of Drew Kiel, compiled five-straight first downs and finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Eyad Salem to take a 26-22 advantage.
The offense pushed the lead to 30-24, but redshirt freshman Ray Sankey posted his second of three sacks on the day to close the deficit to 30-26. After Wesley Williams and Tony Trujillo combined on a tackle-for-loss, which resulted in another three-and-out, the Redbird defense regained a lead it would never relinquish, at 34-31.
The offense got to within a single point, at 34-33, but a Brandon Wilson tackle-for-loss and Sankey's third quarterback sack increased the defense's lead, 38-33. Senior safety Tom Nelson sealed the victory with a 13-point play, after being awarded six points for his interception of a Kevin Brockway pass and another seven points after returning it 18 yards for a touchdown. The 51-36 lead by the Redbird defense was the largest lead of the game. Kiel added a one-yard run on a quarterback sneak for the game's final margin, 55-46.
"I was much more pleased with the offense in the second half," said Johnson. "I thought we cut out some penalties and became more efficient."
Clifton Gordon led the ISU running backs with 96 yards on 10 carries, while Cortes Rice rushed for 64 yards on 20 attempts. Parrish Fisher added 63 yards on 11 tries and Blow ended with nine carries for 51 yards.
Brockway passed for 70 yards on 8-for-14 passing with one interception. Kiel also threw an interception to Kelvyn Hemphill, but Hemphill fumbled the ball trying to make a pitch and Kiel recovered the miscue. Kiel completed 9-of-13 passes for 72 yards, while Preston Earl was 7-for-13 for 76 yards and without an interception.
Trujillo led the Redbird defense with nine tackles and Wilson, Khenon Hall and Hemphill each posted eight stops. Sankey's three quarterback sacks led the defensive effort, and he added another tackle-for-loss to increase his TFL total to four.
"Sankey had a good spring," said Johnson. "He has great quickness and speed. We talked about looking at him at linebacker, like we did with (Brandon) Wilson. He has that kind of athletic ability, although he has never played back there. Sankey was one of the young guys coming out of redshirt that we hoped would add something to us in the fall."
The Redbirds were whistled for 17 penalties during the scrimmage, including 11 in the first half. The scrimmage, which counts as practice No. 15, concludes the spring season for the ISU football team.