Redbird Football Wins Overtime Thriller Over Northern Iowa
Written by Brendan McInerney on November 7, 2021
Image courtesy of goredbirds.com
NORMAL, Ill. – The Illinois State football team put on a defensive clinic in its 17-10 overtime win over No. 13 Northern Iowa on Saturday. This comes a week after blowing a late third quarter lead at Western Illinois.
“I was really impressed with the way our team responded in all three phases of the game,” said ISU head coach Brock Spack. “We’re very young. It’s a valuable experience and it was good for us to be able to pull that out and win the game.”
The Redbird defense opened up the scoring, as safety Clayton Isbell intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for the touchdown late in the first quarter. Linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh led the Redbird defense the rest of the way with a career-high 14 tackles and two sacks.
“No matter what our record is, we’re going to get after it,” said Vanderburgh. “We had a great week of practice and had great energy every day which showed today.”
The Redbirds’ record now sits at 4-5. Jackson Waring got the start at quarterback instead of Bryce Jefferson. To take some pressure of his freshman quarterback, Spack implemented a conservative offensive game plan. The Redbirds ran on all but one first-down play.
“He (Waring) is going to be a really good player,” said Spack. “Every game he’s played this year he’s played pretty well.”
Despite a lackluster passing attack in regulation, the Redbirds opened up the playbook in overtime. On the second play from scrimmage, Waring aired it out and found senior Austin Nagel in the back of the end zone for the game-winning 27-yard touchdown.
“It (the win) felt amazing,” said Waring. “Not the best offense we’ve had but we got the job done. We did the best to our ability and came out with the win.”
Spack mentioned earlier in the week that he was considering several personnel adjustments over the final three games to get a closer look at intriguing young players. After proving his worth against Northern Iowa, Waring is expected to be named the starting quarterback moving forward.
“This team has been fun to coach all year,” said Spack. “They work hard and have good attitudes. The character and culture is starting to turn where it was a couple years ago, at least the toughness part of it. They make no excuses and take the coaching part of it and do a good job.”
The Redbirds will be back in action next Saturday to take on North Dakota at 2 p.m.