YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The first five times the Illinois State defense took the field Saturday, the Redbirds didn’t stay long.
ISU did not allow Youngstown State to record a first down on its initial five possessions and surrendered just 6 first-quarter yards as the Redbirds rode a rapid start into a surprisingly comfortable 35-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference triumph over the Penguins at Stambaugh Stadium.
“It was really a team effort. We all came flying around and it turned out that way,” cornerback Davontae Harris said of ISU’s suffocating defense. “We came with a lot of passion and a lot of energy.”
The Redbirds, who opened the season with a 45-0 thrashing of Butler, have recorded two shutouts in a season for the first time since 2000.
“You don’t want them to get off to a good start,” said ISU coach Brock Spack. “We played good defense all day.”
Youngstown averaged just 2.6 yards per rush and completed only 8 of 18 passes for 63 yards. ISU more than doubled the Penguins in total offense, 341-147, and led 21-0 at halftime.
“Our mindset the second half was we’ve got to fly around and make more plays,” said Harris, who had a sack, five total tackles and broke up two passes.
Linebackers Ty DeForest and Brannon Barry paced ISU with six tackles each. Tyree Horton registered two sacks and Dalton Keene, James Graham and Jason Harris joined Davontae Harris with one each. DraShane Glass snared his seventh career interception, the most by a current Redbird.
More Malachi: ISU expanded its package of plays for elusive second string quarterback Malachi Broadnax.
The redshirt freshman was on the field at the same time as starting quarterback Jake Kolbe for several plays, caught his first pass for 9 yards and rushed three times for 6 yards. Broadnax had Tylor Petkovich wide open over the middle on his only pass but overthrew the tight end.
“Now they (opponents) have to think about other things,” Spack said. “We’ve got two quarterbacks on the field now. There will be a whole bunch of stuff.”
Peeved Pelini: As one could imagine, Youngstown coach Bo Pelini was thoroughly displeased with his team’s fourth straight loss. At 3-5, a Penguins team that advanced to the FCS title game last season will not be returning to the playoffs.
“That was the worst football team I’ve ever seen play this game,” said Pelini. “Across the board, worst coach, worst playing, no character, no discipline. You can go right down the list.”
Can’t predict ball: The results of this season's contests between ISU, South Dakota and Southern Illinois make no earthly sense.
Southern handled the Redbirds, 42-7, on Oct. 14 in Carbondale. The next week, ISU defeated South Dakota, 37-21. But on Saturday, South Dakota hammered SIU, 42-0.
Running to glory: ISU tailbacks James Robinson and Markel Smith have combined for a whopping 523 rushing yards the past two weeks.
“They ran really hard. I can’t say enough about those two guys,” Spack said. “Obviously, the front blocked well. But they made some runs on their own, too. They were a load. That’s the kind of running game I thought we could be in the preseason.”
Smith totaled 124 yards and Robinson 117 in the win over Youngstown.
“We both just care about getting a win. No one likes to lose,” said Robinson. “That’s all we’re really worried about.”
Seizing the edge: ISU forged ahead in the all-time series with Youngstown, 14-13. Saturday was the first time the Redbirds blanked the Penguins.
The way forward: At 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play, the Redbirds are one short of the seven wins that should assure them of an at-large FCS playoff berth if they do not secure the Valley’s automatic bid.
ISU closes the regular season with home games against Western Illinois (Nov. 4) and North Dakota State (Nov. 18) and a Nov. 11 road contest against South Dakota State. All three teams were in the top 12 of last week’s STATS national rankings.