TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Indiana State football team put together an impressive second half comeback against visiting Western Illinois but it wasn't enough as the Leathernecks came out of Memorial Stadium with a 21-14 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory over the Sycamores in front of 4,109 fans.
The Sycamores fell to 1-10, 0-7 MVFC while Western Illinois improved to 4-7, 2-5 MVFC.
ISU found itself down 21-0 at the half but the Sycamore defense played with great energy after the intermission and it started on Western Illinois' first offensive possession. On 4th-and-8 from the ISU 30, Tyler Stafford and Russell Jones converged on quarterback Trenton Norvell and Jones scooped up the ball and advanced it to the ISU 46. While the ensuing possession didn't net points for the Sycamore offense, the tone for the second half had been set.
The Sycamore defense came back out and forced a 3-and-out before Jess Harris partially blocked a Western Illinois punt to set up ISU with a short field at the WIU 38-yard line. Buck Logan got a first down to two rushes and then Tanner Riley took an end around for seven more to get to the 24. On 3rd-and-2, Logan got three yards to get down to the six-yard line where he finished the drive off three plays later to get ISU on the board as they trailed 21-7 with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
Western Illinois drove all the way down to the ISU nine-yard line but a holding call backed them up and Connor Underwood came up with a sack and fumble of Norvell which Brady Collins returned 34 yards to the WIU 34-yard line to set up the Sycamores' next possession early in the fourth quarter.
Trent Lancaster, seeing his most extended playing time of the season at quarterback, found Tanner Riley for an eight-yard pass on 4th-and-5 to keep the drive alive and then rushed for 10 yards on the next play to get down to the 11-yard line. On 3rd-and-9 from the WIU 10, Riley was on the receiving end of Lancaster's first career touchdown pass to get the Sycamores within 21-14 with 10:22 remaining in the contest.
Western Illinois would drive the ball to their own 42-yard line to set up a 4th-and-2 play on their possession. Underwood and Mark Sewall came together to stop Nikko Watson for a three-yard loss to give ISU the ball at the WIU 42-yard line. The Sycamores drove all the way down to the WIU 28 in hopes of knotting the score, but Lancaster was intercepted by Devon Butler to thwart the possession.
Once again the Sycamore defense stood tall and forced a 3-and-out and took over at their own 34-yard line with 2:29 remaining the in the contest. Logan opened the drive with a 12-yard rush for a first down, but Lancaster was then sacked three times and on the third a fumble was forced by Kevin Kintzel and recovered by the Leathernecks in the final minute while allowed WIU to run out the clock.
Watson had a pair of 3-yard touchdown runs in the first half to get WIU out to a 14-0 lead and Martinez Davis posted a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown with 6:09 left in the second quarter as the Leathernecks led 21-0 going into halftime.
Buck Logan led the ISU ground attack with 78 rushing yards on 22 attempts while Lancaster had 13 rushes for 23 yards (accounting for 20 lost yards due to pass sacks). Lancaster played the entire second half and went 8-of-15 passing for 93 yards and one touchdown pass to Riley. riley led ISU with five pass receptions for 48 yards and his touchdown.
Defensively, ISU was led in tackles by Kendall Walker and Mark Sewall who had 16 stops each. Underwood had 13 total tackles, two quarterback sacks for 13 yards and three tackles for a loss of 15 yards with a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
Russell Jones and Tyler Stafford each also owned quarterback sacks and each also had a pair of tackles for loss in the contest. Mark Sewall stopped a Western Illinois drive as well with an interception.
Western Illinois' J.C. Baker posted 109 yards on the ground on 23 attempts while Nikko Watson had 21 carries for 69 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Norvell finished 15-of-27 passing for 142 yards and one interception.
Indiana State will conclude the regular season on Saturday, November 23 when they host Southern Illinois on Senior Day. Kick-off is slated for 2:00 p.m. (ET).