NORMAL — Bo Flowers missed Illinois State’s season opener waiting for the NCAA to approve his eligibility. He missed two later games with a shoulder injury.
When Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garappolo passed over the middle on fourth down late in Saturday’s season finale, Flowers did not miss.
Flowers’ first college interception sealed ISU’s 27-23 victory and capped an eventful post-high school athletic career that featured five years in professional baseball and three years of football at the University of Illinois.
“I’ve been waiting to get my first pick,” Flowers said. “It was great to finally get one to close the game out for our team and win this ballgame. It was great.”
Flowers graduated from Illinois last spring with a degree in community health. He then enrolled at ISU as a graduate student in criminal justice.
“I think it’s fitting Bo got the interception at the end,” said Coach Brock Spack. “He’s been through a lot. I’m real proud of him and the way he carries himself. He’s a mature guy, and it’s really good for our young players to see that.”
Huge day for Harris: Redshirt freshman defensive end Shelby Harris, who transferred from Wisconsin this fall, had a huge final game of his first season at ISU.
Harris’ biggest play was a second-quarter blocked punt that set up ISU’s first touchdown.
“It was basically go (rush) and see what you can do. The blocker didn’t do much and I got through,” Harris said. “God knows it was just luck basically. It hit my arm and my arm went numb (because) it was too cold. It was completely worth it.”
Harris also contributed a sack among two tackles for loss and a pass break up.
“Shelby had a coming out party,” said Spack. “People don’t realize Shelby is just 18 years old. He should be just coming into college. He’s like a big puppy. He has size 18 shoes, big hands, big joints. I hope he can launch into the offseason and become the player we expect him to be.”
Mutual admiration: Spack was an assistant for Eastern head coach Bob Spoo from 1987 to ’90 and the respect the two have for each other is clear.
“If I had to lose to somebody, there’s nobody better than Brock Spack to lose to,” Spoo said. “He’s one of my best friends and one of the better men in this game.”
“Coach Spoo is a very dear person to me and a lot of coaches out there,” said Spack.
Along came Jones: Senior E.J. Jones nabbed his seventh interception of the season in the second quarter. That’s the most by a Redbird since Jeff Smith also had seven in 1986.
Smith’s 13 career picks tie him for third on ISU’s career list.
Brown halfway done: Sophomore quarterback Matt Brown has two full seasons left as a Redbird but already is only the fourth passer in school history to reach 5,000 yards passing.
Brown has 5,034 yards and trails only Kevin Glenn (8,251), Luke Drone (8,123) and John Coppens (6,238). Brown’s 2,665 yards this season represent the fourth highest total by a Redbird.
Walker, too: Wide receiver Tyrone Walker also has had an extremely productive initial two years at ISU.
The sophomore ranks eighth in all-time receiving yards (1,459) and 11th with 96 receptions.
Eastern again: ISU won’t have to wait long for another look at Eastern. The Redbirds and Panthers open the 2011 season on Sept. 1 in Charleston. It will be the 100th meeting in the rivalry.
ISU plays four of its first six games on the road next season before finishing with four of five at Hancock Stadium.