BOONE, N.C. — Shelby Harris raised his arm and pointed to the MVBP of an amazing Championship Subdivision playoff game.
Harris’ right forearm — the Most Valuable Body Part — rejected a Sam Martin overtime extra point that sealed a wild 38-37 Illinois State victory over Appalachian State on Saturday before a raucous Kidd Brewer Stadium crowd of 16,719.
“I couldn’t have done it without Colton Underwood. We felt we had an opportunity to block it all game,” Harris said of his fourth career kick block. “We both got a good push. We both lined up over the guards and went on the snap. I was ecstatic.”
The 16th-ranked Redbirds advanced to 9-3 in their first playoff appearance since 2006 and will meet Eastern Washington, a 29-19 winner over Wagner, in the quarterfinals.
“What a great game,” ISU coach Brock Spack said. “I’m very proud of our team. It was a great battle between two really tough teams.”
A 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Brown to tight end James O’Shaughnessy on the initial snap of overtime handed the Redbirds a 37-31 lead. Nick Aussieker tacked on the extra point that would prove to be the game-winner.
No. 7 Appalachian State countered with a 4-yard scoring pass from Jamal Jackson to Andrew Peacock before the routine point after became anything but.
“It’s hard to say,” said Martin. “I felt like I hit it well. After that, I have no idea.”
Harris’ rejection caromed straight back behind Martin. Redbird Matt Goldsmith covered the football as the ISU sideline erupted in elation.
The Mountaineers scored 14 fourth-quarter points to force overtime.
“If you’re a spectator, that’s a great football game to watch,” Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said. “But it’s a tough way to end a season in a tough ballgame like this.”
Redbird seniors Brown and wide receiver Tyrone Walker came through with efforts befitting school career record holders.
Brown completed 20 of 32 passes for 322 yards and matched a career-high with five touchdown passes. Walker hauled in 10 passes for 176 yards and joined O’Shaughnessy with two scoring grabs.
“This is our guy,” Spack said with a nod to Brown. “It was all on him and 12 (Walker) to win the game for us. You play with what brought you here.”
Brown’s 32-yard TD toss to a well-covered Walker with 2:28 left in the third quarter extended the Redbird lead to 28-17.
“We knew we would be able to complete some balls on them,” Brown said. “Their DBs (defensive backs) are great athletes, but there were holes in their coverage at times we saw on film. We tried to exploit those areas.”
The Mountaineers regrouped with a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Rod Chisholm.
After a clutch 41-yard field goal from Aussieker, Appalachian State forged a 31-31 tie with 3:31 remaining on a 10-yard pass from receiver Peacock to Drew Bailey.
“There were some ugly plays on both sides of the ball and some beautiful plays,” Spack said. “You had to be patient.”
ISU took a 14-10 lead into halftime on the strength of Brown touchdown passes of 41 yards to Walker and 9 yards to O’Shaughnessy.
Walker eluded a tackler over the middle and outraced another Mountaineer down the right sideline to score at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter.
Jackson capped a 69-yard Appalachian State drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge for a 7-7 second-quarter tie.
O’Shaughnessy made a spectacular leaping catch of a Brown pass for a 44-yard gain. Two plays later, O’Shaughnessy hauled in a 9-yard TD toss, dragging one foot before going out of bounds.
Aussieker’s second extra point gave the Redbirds a 14-7 edge with 44 seconds left in the opening half.
The Mountaineers hustled down field and got in range for a 37-yard Martin field goal at the horn.
Jackson passed for 373 yards and two touchdowns with 13 of those passes going to freshman sensation Sean Price for 167 yards. Price set national freshman single-season records for yards (1,196) and receptions (81).
But the Redbirds were stout against the run, limiting the Mountaineers to 51 net years on 27 attempts.
Safety Ben Erickson topped ISU with 12 tackles, while cornerback Goldsmith added a career-high 10. Underwood, Nate Palmer and Evan Frierson combined for three sacks and five tackles for loss.