NORMAL — The punt block was not on.
Yet when Marcus King saw Youngstown State punter Nick Liste mishandle the snap, King turned it on.
King swooped in to block Liste’s punt and fellow Normal Community High School graduate Jake Detmers returned it 2 yards for a crucial third-quarter touchdown in Illinois State’s 41-39 victory Saturday at Hancock Stadium.
“It wasn’t a designed block. Coach (Jay) Peterson always says individual effort can change a game,” said King. “I saw the kicker fumble the ball and gave all I had at it. I wasn’t going to go for the block until I saw at the last second I might have a chance to get there.”
Detmers saw the punt blocked and tracked the bouncing ball down in time to step into the end zone for six points.
“Marcus had a great effort play. I had the easy part,” Detmers said. “I was thinking don’t fumble the ball. Whenever you make a big play on special teams, it’s a huge momentum swing.”
Neither King nor Detmers noticed the NCHS collaboration until later.
“I didn’t know who recovered it. It was just a blessing to even be out on the field at the time,” said King. “I didn’t realize who it was till I went to the sideline. I was happy it was him.”
ISU coach Brock Spack was happy not only for the special teams score but that King was involved.
“I’m very happy for him. Marcus has had a tough go of it,” Spack said. “He’s really struggled to be healthy. He’s an outstanding student and a great kid. It’s good to see something good happen for him.”
King also nabbed a 13-yard touchdown pass from Matt Brown in the third quarter.
Conservative call: In order to avoid a possible interception and keep the clock running, ISU handed the ball to Erik Smith on third-and-15 while clinging to a three-point lead late in the game.
The Redbirds then punted and Kelvyn Hemphill downed the ball at the 4-yard line. But Youngs-town marched 96 yards in 12 plays for the go-ahead touchdown with 27 seconds remaining.
“We were trying to burn the clock,” said Spack. “We kicked them down deep and got what we wanted. You would like to think the chances are in your favor to defend that. I would do that again.”
Sanders catches on: Lost in Tyrone Walker’s game-winning 40-yard touchdown catch and the sophomore’s 206 receiving yards was a school-record tying 14 catches by Marvon Sanders for 108 yards.
“The coaches always tell me don’t try to do too much. Get the ball to the receivers and let them do the work,” quarterback Matt Brown said. “Today that’s what happened. They made some great moves and had some great catches.”
Youngstown coach Eric Wolford called his secondary against Walker and Sanders “a mismatch for us.
“He (Walker) is special. They can throw the ball around. They really can. They’re good players who know how to get in and out of routes, make plays and make guys miss.”
Walker, King honored: Walker and King were named the Missouri Valley offensive and special teams players of the week, respectively, for their roles in the win.
Defenders: Josh Howe (16), Mike Zimmer (13), Bo Flowers (10), Ryan Givens (9) and Rickey Simpson (8) all posted career-high tackle totals for ISU.
Zimmer and Nick Broome recorded sacks, Zimmer forced a fumble and fumbles were recovered by Givens and Colton Underwood.
Season finale: With a 5-5 record, ISU closes its season next Saturday against 2-8 Eastern Illinois. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Hancock Stadium.