No. 9 Eastern Illinois Tops No. 16 Illinois State in Mid-America Classic
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Sept. 14, 2013
CHARLESTON, Ill. - After Illinois State took an early 7-0 lead, No. 9 Eastern Illinois outscored the No. 16 Redbirds, 57-17, and the Panthers earned the Mid-America Classic trophy by beating the Redbirds, 57-24, in the 102nd meeting between the two in-state rivals.
Starting ISU quarterback Jared Barnett finished 7-for-18 for 133 yards and one touchdown, with three interceptions, before being taken out late in the first half in favor of backup Blake Winkler due to an injury. Winkler proceeded to go 8-for-11 for 144 yards, including two touchdowns and no interceptions in his ISU debut. He connected with Cameron Meredith for both touchdowns, and Meredith led ISU's receivers with five catches for 76 yards.
Meanwhile, EIU quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo set Eastern's school record for single-game touchdowns with seven. He finished 26-for-41 for 480 yards and no interceptions.
Defensively, Mike Banks earned a career-high nine tackles, including eight unassisted. Matt Goldsmith also matched a career-best with seven unassisted stops, including eight total tackles. All-American Colton Underwood also added seven stops, a sack and two tackles-for-loss to go along with a forced fumble, pass break up and blocked extra point attempt.
In a first quarter that saw ISU and EIU combine for 34 points, the Redbirds found the end zone first, scoring two minutes and 15 seconds into the game on a 22-yard pass from Barnett to freshman Anthony Warrum. After Nick Aussieker's PAT cleared the uprights, Illinois State jumped out to 7-0 lead. However, Eastern Illinois responded with 27-unanswered points in the opening period, all through the air. Garoppolo first connected with Adam Drake for a 23-yard touchdown at the 11:24 mark, but EIU had to settle for six points after Cameron Berra's PAT was blocked by Underwood.
Eastern Illinois also scored the next three touchdowns, first on a six-yard pass from Garoppolo to Andre Hodge, followed by a 63-yard score to Erik Lora. Then, with just four seconds left in the first quarter, the Panthers added to their lead on an 86-yard pass from Garoppolo to Keiondre Gober, and Berra nailed three-straight PATs to help EIU take a 27-7 lead into the second quarter.
Illinois State stopped the Eastern Illinois scoring streak with a 30-yard field goal by Aussieker to cut Illinois State's deficit to 27-10 at the 8:52 mark, following a drive that included a 41-yard pass from Barnett to Chick Chatham. But, EIU answered again with back-to-back touchdowns, this time with a 30-yard pass from Garoppolo to Drake and a 13-yard completion to Lora, plus two PATs to increase Eastern's lead to 41-10 with 4:49 left in the half.
The Panthers threatened again late in the quarter, but Illinois State's defense stepped up, with Underwood forcing Garoppolo to fumble and Brandon Prate recovering on ISU's 17-yard line. However, the Redbirds turned the ball over two plays later as Barnett's pass was intercepted by DJ Bland, and EIU later capitalized with a 38-yard field goal by Berra as the first-half clock ran out, giving the Panthers a 44-10 halftime advantage.
Illinois State received the ball to start the second half, with Winkler in for the injured starter Barnett. ISU converted on two fourth-down situations during the opening drive, including on fourth-and-goal at the EIU five-yard line. Winkler connected with Meredith in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown, a career-first for both players involved, and Aussieker converted the PAT, making the score 44-17. Eastern Illinois again answered, as Shepard Little broke free for a 73-yard touchdown run to increase EIU's lead to 50-17 after the ensuing PAT missed wide. The Panthers added to their advantage on a seven-yard pass from Garoppolo to Lora and a PAT, making it 57-17.
Winkler later threw his second-career touchdown, passing again to Meredith for a five-yard reception, and Aussieker's kick was good, making the final score 57-24.
After starting the season with two-straight road games, the Redbirds open the newly-renovated Hancock Stadium Saturday, Sept. 21 against Abilene Christian. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m., with tickets available on GoRedbirds.com and by calling (309) 438-8000.
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