Illinois State rewind: Redbirds snap long road losing streak at Northern Iowa

Jason Lewan (94) and Kenton Wilhoit (8) combine on a stop Saturday in ISU’s win. (Photo by

By Dan Verdun

Illinois State’s defense held off a Northern Iowa charge and snapped a decade-long losing streak in Cedar Falls.

The win lifted the Redbirds to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Northern Iowa fell to 2-4 overall and 2-2 in the league.

The game was close throughout and saw Northern Iowa nearly match ISU score for score.

In the end, Illinois State pulled out a 23-21 victory, the first for the Redbirds at the UNI-Dome since 2012.

Redshirt freshman Ian Wagner made his first appearance as a Redbird and kicked three field goals, all at key moments. Wagner had been sidelined by an injury he suffered in the summer.

Game changers

8:12, 2nd quarter: Running back Wenkers Wright, who missed last week’s loss to Southern Illinois with an injury, returned with a 3-yard touchdown run. After the PAT, the Redbirds lead 17-7.

9:41, 3rd quarter: Wagner extended ISU’s lead to 23-14 with a career-long 41-yard field goal.

0:00, 4th quarter: UNI reached the ISU 43-yard line, but Zeke Vandenburgh sacked Panther quarterback Theo Day to end the game.

What it means

Illinois State head coach Brock Spack takes a 7-6 lead in his head-to-head matchups with veteran Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley.

Best ‘Birds

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

Zack Annexstad, QB: The junior completed 29-of-41 passes for career-best 257 yards and one touchdown.

Kenton Wilhoit, LB: The junior led ISU with 11 tackles and a sack.

Wagner, K: The O’Fallon High School graduate was 3-for-4 in field goal attempts and added two point afters.

What’s next?

Illinois State hosts South Dakota Oct. 15 for the annual homecoming game. The Coyotes (1-4, 0-2) lost 28-3 at South Dakota State Saturday.

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