ISU football earns first win at Illinois State since '97

Down 10-0, Indiana State's football team was struggling on the road for their final game of the regular season.

However, the Sycamores mounted a comeback on Saturday to earn a 15-10 win at Hancock Stadium. It was the Sycamores' first win at Illinois State since 1997.

Offensively, Indiana State struggled to gain any momentum in the first half, missing two field goals that were within 20 yards.

The Sycamores were outscored 10-0 in a first half that included giving up a 40 yard touchdown pass on the defense’s first play of the game. 

Freshman defensive back Rylan Cole credited the defense for not getting down on themselves despite a slow start.

“We really had some guys step up, some of the older guys and we really just played as a team,” Cole said . “Just like I said, we were chasing that all year and I really feel like we got that done and everyone was doing their jobs. The first defensive play of the game we gave up a touchdown and we really didn't hold our heads down. We just stayed up and knew if everyone does their job, we're gonna get it done.”

The tale of the second half was much different as the Sycamores were finally able to get on the scoreboard after a six-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt junior quarterback Kurtis Wilderman. Indiana State then successfully went for the two-point conversion and cut the Redbirds' lead to 10-8 as they headed into the fourth quarter.

Wilderman elaborated on what holes he noticed in the Redbird’s defense that allowed a late third quarter run.

“We noticed that they weren't really getting fully set up on some of us when we got up to align with the fast tempo,” Wilderman said . “So we kind of mixed that in trying to try to get them off guard. We did that, you know pretty well and then we moved the ball around, moved the pocket, spread them out and tried to get our playmakers the ball.”

The Sycamores continued their momentum in the fourth quarter with a late game rushing touchdown by Wilderman to put Indiana State up 15-10 with under four minutes left in the game.

Defensively, Indiana State stepped up, forcing a Redbird fumble with under a minute left to seal the game. 

“Well, you know it's what we've been talking about,” Mallory said. “These guys, they stepped up. You know things didn't look so good at the beginning but they stuck together and that's a huge thing you know because it hasn't always happened this year. And when things happen like that they responded in the way that I knew they would.”

Mallory made the defensive calls on Saturday as several defensive coaches — including defensive coordinator Brad Wilson — were out due to COVID-19 protocols.

Indiana State’s Wilderman had a career game as he went 21 of 38 for a career high 243 yards. On the defensive end, the Sycamores were lead by defensive back Rylan Cole and Geoffrey Brown. Brown recorded 12 total tackles while Cole forced the game sealing fumble.

“All season coach always told us the defense really needs to come together,” Cole said. “Just play as a team and we were kind of chasing that all year and I really think our defense came together and we just trusted in our offense. We knew our offense was gonna end up getting it done, so we just really trusted in ourselves and did our thing. And next thing you know the offense picked it up and it was awesome.”

The Sycamores end their season 5-6 overall and 3-5 in Missouri Valley Conference play.

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