NORMAL — Luther Kirk will have a third-quarter interception to rib Illinois State quarterback Brady Davis about all summer.
But Davis had the last laugh Saturday at ISU's Spring Showcase intrasquad scrimmage.
Davis rallied the Red team from a 14-point deficit with three straight touchdowns, and the White team was turned away on a game-deciding two-point conversion as the Red came away with a 28-27 victory at Hancock Stadium.
"That's the best spring game I've ever been a part of," ISU coach Brock Spack said. "I would have been disappointed if it wasn't anything but that because we have a lot of good players all over the field. We've got guys making plays everywhere. It was good to see."
Kirk's interception and 51-yard return on the first possession of the second half led to a 32-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Jefferson to Tristan Bailey that handed the White a 21-7 lead.
"We've been going back and forth all spring," Kirk said of opposing Davis in practice. "It's been a battle, but it's been a fun battle between us."
Davis converted two third-and-7 plays on the ensuing drive, the second of which was a 35-yard touchdown strike to Andrew Edgar.
A Clayton Isbell interception of Jefferson gave the ball back to Davis, who found Edgar again for a 33-yard scoring pass to tie the score.
"Once the teams were broken up there was a lot of talk back and forth. I had been jawing with Coach (Khenon) Hall so I couldn't lose to him," Davis said with a laugh. "We rallied the troops and were able to go get a win. But the other team did a great job on both the offensive and defensive sides."
The Red, made up of the first team offense and second string defense, continued to move the ball effectively and took the lead on a 2-yard Jeff Proctor surge up the middle into the end zone.
Proctor, who had scored from 7 yards in the first half, finished with 100 rushing yards on 17 carries. He was given the offense's top newcomer award for the spring.
Jefferson brought the White back with a 39-yard connection down the sideline to freshman Eric Rogers. Jefferson hit Rogers on a slant for a 4-yard touchdown with the fourth quarter clock under a minute.
The two-point conversion attempt failed when Jefferson's handoff to 325-pound fullback John Ridgeway (usually a defensive tackle) did not make connections.
Jefferson, a redshirt freshman who is the top candidate to back up Davis this fall, completed 10 of 17 passes for 206 yards.
"We were slinging it around a little bit, weren't we?," Jefferson said with a broad grin. "From the first day out here my confidence level is out the roof now. I'm feeling better about the offense and the plays."
Spack also saw Jefferson make strides during spring drills.
"I'm really happy for Bryce. He did a good job running the offense," said the ISU coach. "Just this last week he's really taken off and gotten a lot better. We needed him to do that."
The first half saw Jefferson hook up with Bailey behind the Red defense for an 83-yard touchdown bomb. Bailey then took a lateral from Jefferson and tossed a 39-yard TD pass to Rogers.
"I can throw a little bit. I'm coming back from a shoulder injury so I'm a little rusty, but it got where it needed to be," Bailey said. "I had a lot of pregame jitters. This is my first time (in college) playing in front of people. It was great."
Bailey hauled in three passes for 124 yards, while Rogers had five catches for 93 yards and Edgar four for 101. Davis completed 11 of 18 passes for 202 yards.
Julian Haynie and Jeremiah Jordan paced the Red defense with six tackles each. A true freshman who enrolled in January, Jordan also had two sacks among five tackles for loss. Christian Uphoff led the White with six stops.
Isbell was awarded top defensive newcomer distinction. Most improved honors went to tight end Robert Gillum and linebacker DeMarco Washington. Pitbull awards for toughness were presented to guard Jared Rients on offense and tackle Jason Lewan on defense. Linebacker Ty DeForest took the Hammer Award for hard hitting.
2020 schedule set: ISU has finalized its 2020 schedule with the addition of Dixie State, a new FCS program based in St. George, Utah, for the final week of the regular season.
The Redbirds also will play Illinois and Eastern Illinois in nonconference games along with eight Missouri Valley Football Conference contests in 2020.