TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — It appears lowly Indiana State is lowly no more.
And it’s difficult to imagine the Illinois State football team’s defense sinking any lower.
Taking full advantage of first-half Redbird defensive ineptitude of historic proportions, the Missouri Valley Football Conference doormat of the past several years stomped all over Illinois State in a 59-24 victory before a homecoming crowd of 8,294 at Memorial Stadium.
It was the most points the Redbirds have ever surrendered in a Valley game.
“Not a lot went right. Our defense is broke right now, and we’ve got to try to fix it,” Illinois State coach Brock Spack said. “It’s a very disappointing loss. We did not respond very well.”
Indiana State (3-2, 1-1 in the Valley) incredibly rolled up 448 yards of total offense by halftime and led 44-24 after netting six touchdowns and a late field goal on seven first-half possessions. The point output was both a Sycamores’ record and an all-time high for a Redbird opponent in a half.
“Obviously, it’s a great day to be a Sycamore,” said Coach Trent Miles. “Our young men battled and executed. This is a huge step for our program the way we competed.”
Decked out in new black uniform tops, Indiana State practically floated downfield on its first two drives of 81 and 88 yards that ended in a 40-yard scoring pass from Ronnie Fouch to Bryant Kent and a 3-yard Darrius Gates touchdown plunge, respectively.
“You got to give it to Indiana State. They executed and played well,” Illinois State outside linebacker Mike Zimmer said. “We had a lot of mental mistakes and (with) tackling. When they put that many points on the board it’s tough.”
Steven Fetzer’s 50-yard field goal at the 32-second mark of the first quarter broke the ice for the Redbirds (3-3, 2-2). But Indiana State struck back as a Fouch pass was deflected at the goal line but caromed perfectly to Kent for a 7-yard touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
ISU quarterback Matt Brown then found Tyrone Walker for a 46-yard touchdown strike. Indiana State matched that score with a 62-yard Shakir Bell scoring sprint.
“Every time we got the ball, we’re looking to score,” said Bell, who rushed for 146 yards on 14 carries. “That’s how it started, and that’s how we finished it.”
After an 11-yard scoring run by Gates, a 26-yard Walker touchdown catch with 5:01 left in the half brought the Redbirds within 35-17.
“The passing game was working well,” said Walker after hauling in five passes for a career-high 131 yards. “They put a lot of focus on Marvon (Sanders) and my side was man-to-man. We tried to take advantage of it.”
The Sycamores moved ahead 41-17 on another unlikely bounce. Illinois State defensive tackle Mike Piton got a hand on a Fouch pass only to see the ball deflect sharply to his left and directly into the arms of Justin Hill for a head-shaking 25-yard touchdown.
Brown’s third touchdown pass was the first career score for true freshman Matt Younger, who jumped over an Indiana State defender to snare a 15-yard toss. The Sycamores tacked on a 30-yard Cory Little field goal on the first half’s final snap.
Even the Illinois State offense stalled in the second half. A 5-yard scoring pass from Fouch to Alex Jones was the lone touchdown of the third quarter.
“We’re not playing very well and this team has a tendency to drop its head and stick its lip out when things don’t go their way,” Spack said. “I saw physical errors. I didn’t see a lot of mental mistakes.”
Among the Redbirds’ final indignities was a Ben Obaseki sack of Brown for a safety with 7:21 remaining.
Indiana State finished with 579 yards (295 pass, 284 rush) while scoring its most points in a conference game since 1999.