Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Harden for the go-ahead score in the 12th-ranked Redbirds' 34-31 win against South Dakota Saturday at DakotaDome. Illinois State (5-0, 2-0 MVFC) remained undefeated while USD (1-3, 0-1) lost at home for the first time in eight games.
It was South Dakota's debut as a member of the Missouri Valley and it was an entertaining one. The Coyotes spent much of the second half trying to erase a 24-10 halftime deficit and got there when Marcus Sims turned a simple screen pass into a 41-yard touchdown run down the sidelines with 9:29 remaining. The PAT knotted the game at 24-24.
It took 11 seconds for Illinois State to answer.
Brown laid a perfect pass into the hands of Harden, who beat his one-on-one coverage down the right sideline. Brown completed 15-of-31 passes for 336 yards and accounted for two scores in becoming Illinois State's all-time leading passer. He has thrown for 8,587 yards as a Redbird.
South Dakota had three drives to try to answer. The first was a 3-and-out. The second ended on an incomplete pass on 4th-and-4 from the ISU 39. The third drive ended when a pass went off the hands of a USD receiver and into the waiting hands of Matt Goldsmith for an interception.
Nick Aussieker kicked a 42-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining to make it 34-24. Josh Vander Maten threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Williams to close the gap to three with 20 seconds left. The Redbirds recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt to end the game.
The unforced turnover near the end of the game capped a litany of Coyote miscues. South Dakota committed seven penalties, missed a 46-yard field goal and had two punts blocked – all in the first half.
Dontae McCoy blocked both punts. The second setup the Redbirds with a 1st-and-goal from the 9 with 1:03 to go in the first half. Brown found a seam and went untouched into the end zone from 12 yards away on 3rd-and-goal to make it 24-10.
Vander Maten passed for a career-best 253 yards and threw three second-half touchdowns. A 50-yard pitch-and-catch to Will Powell led to a 32-yard field goal by Kevin Robb that made it 10-10 midway through the second quarter. Powell had three catches for a season-high 93 yards. He also became the fifth Coyote in program history to reach 2,000 yards receiving.
Sims broke the 100-yard mark for the second time in three games. His 53-yard touchdown run gave the Coyotes an early 7-3 edge. He finished with 120 yards on 14 carries.
Courtesy: USD Athletics