Illinois State rewind: Redbird rally falls short against longtime rival SIU

Sophomore running back Rashad Lampkin scored Illinois State’s first touchdown on a six-yard pass Saturday at Hancock Stadium. (Photo by

By Dan Verdun

NORMAL — Illinois State debuted its “dark mode” uniforms for Saturday night’s Missouri Valley Football Conference game. Yet ISU — clad in black, red and gray — would have preferred to have seen some yellow added in the game’s final minutes.

Trailing 19-14 with 1:46 remaining in the game, the Redbirds faced a third-and-8 on the Southern Illinois 13. Quarterback Zack Annexstad’s pass intended for redshirt freshman Daniel Sobkowicz was broken up by SIU defensive back DJ Johnson in the end zone.

Though there was some contact on the play, no penalty flag was thrown.

“You saw it and watched the replay,” ISU head coach Brock Spack said in the postgame. “We got two PIs (pass interference penalties) called on us in the game that were from the same official.”

Zack Annexstad

Annexstad said, “(With) human nature you’d always like to blame it on someone else, but we’ve got to play better in the first half. If we play better in the first half, we’re not in that position.”

Sobkowicz said, “I tried to make a play on the ball, but couldn’t.”

The Redbirds’ hopes to pull out a victory essentially ended on the next play as SIU defensive end Richie Hagarty sacked Annexstad for a nine-yard loss.

Following the play, Spack was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty by the officials after he had words with them. Certainly, the third down play was the subject of the dialogue.

Having taken over on downs, the Salukis gained one first down and ran out the clock to preserve the five-point win.

SIU, No. 19 in the Stats Perform FCS poll, improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the MVFC. Illinois State slipped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the league.

Southern Illinois built a 19-0 lead by halftime, but the Illinois State defense clamped down in the second half. In addition, the Redbird offense took flight by switching into an uptempo offense.

“We practice that every day. It’s in our toolbox,” Spack said. “We felt like we had to (because) we weren’t moving the ball with a lot of consistency. We tried to turn it into a conditioning game and that’s what it turned into at the end.”

Game changers

9:21, 3rd quarter: Sobkowicz was called for offensive pass interference on a pass into the end zone that Annexstad threw on a second-and-15 from the SIU 31-yard line. The Salukis declined the penalty on the incomplete pass.

1:32, 3rd quarter: Annexstad found running back Rashad Lampkin open in the right flat for a six-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-goal for ISU’s first score.

3:14, 4th quarter: After dropping back to pass in shotgun formation, Annexstad tucked the ball and ran for a 12-yard gain on a third-and-9. The run kept the Redbirds alive in their comeback bid.

What it means

With the rivalry heading into a two-year hiatus due to the conference schedule reshuffling with Murray State joining the league next fall, SIU now leads the all-time series 43-38-3.

Best ‘Birds

Prairie State Pigskin chooses the top three ISU players in the game:

Zack Annexstad, QB: The junior threw for 243 yards — 168 of which came in the second half — and two touchdowns. He also led the Redbirds with 34 net yards rushing.

Zeke Vandenburgh, LB: The Freeport High School product had a game-high 14 tackles with a sack and a quarterback hurry.

Jeremiah Jordan, LB: The Chicago native who prepped at Madison (Wis.) Memorial High School registered nine tackles and was credited with half a tackle-for-loss.

What’s next?

The Redbirds play at Northern Iowa Oct. 8 in their next league game. UNI (2-3, 2-1) defeated Indiana State 20-14 Saturday in MVFC action.

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