Sycamores dominant start highlights 37-27 win

Sycamore tight-end Zach Larkin's leaping touchdown form ISU's 37-27 win over Western Illinois.

Indiana State bolted to an early first half lead and held off Western Illinois in the second half on their way to the 37-27 win on Saturday afternoon at

Memorial Stadium.

The Sycamores (3-3, 1-2 MVFC) utilized strong offensive performances from Peterson Kerlegrand (17 carries, 178 yards, 2 TD) and Phazione McClurge (four catches, 98

yards, 1 TD) on their way to building a 24-7 lead at the halftime break. The defense was paced by Inoke Moala's monster game (6 tackles, 3.5 sacks), while Dwayne Thompson

II and Kaelub Newman were both involved in turnovers as Indiana State topped the visiting Leathernecks (1-5, 1-2 MVFC).

Kerlegrand had nine carries for 94 yards in the first half, including the then-longest Indiana State play from scrimmage with a 49-yard touchdown run with 3:36 left in the

second quarter. He added runs of 32 and 28 in the second half on his way to his highest single game rushing total since putting up 194 yards against Dayton early in the 2019

season.

McClurge and Zach Larkin were quarterback Anthony Thompson's favorite targets on the day as the redshirt senior signal caller went 15-of-21 for 226 yards and two

touchdowns. Larkin hauled in four passes for a career-high 72 yards, while adding eight rushing yards in the game. Rontrez Morgan also added six catches in the contest for 54

yards.

Defensively, the first half was all Inoke Moala as the redshirt senior defensive end posted 3.5 sacks over the first 30 minutes in a dominate performance. Indiana State finished

the day with 6.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss in limiting Western Illinois to just 28 rushing yards, including a negative-32 rushing yard first half..

The Leathernecks were paced by Connor Sampon's 449 yard passing effort in the game. Sampson went 36-of-59 through the air and recorded touchdown passes to Jack Whyte,

Ludovick Choquette, Daniel Bender, and Tony Tate in the loss.

Darius Joiner led the Leathernecks' defensive efforts with 11 tackles, while Michael Lawson added eight tackles and a sack in the loss. Indiana State took the early lead with 7:18 remaining in the first quarter as Anthony Thompson found Zach Larkin in the end zone from three yards out to cap the 13-play, 80-yard drive. The drive was aided by a 17-yard pickup on 3rd-and-5 by Thompson near midfield.

The Sycamores added to their lead on an Alan Selzer 39-yard field goal with 0:59 remaining in the first quarter to cap the five-play, 47-yard drive. ISU took advantage of a

Thompson-to-Larkin 39-yard pass on the first play of the drive to set up the field goal attempt.

Aided by Dwayne Thompson deflecting the WIU punt from the Leathernecks end zone, the Sycamores took advantage of the short field early in the second quarter. Peterson Kerlegrand took the ball over the goal line from three yards out to cap a five-play, 19-yard drive and put Indiana State ahead 17-0 with 9:09 to play in the second quarter. Western Illinois cut into the lead with 4:26 remaining in the first half as Connor Sampson found Jack Whyte on the play-action pass from one-yard out put the margin at

17-7 in favor of the Sycamores.

The Sycamores quickly answered on their ensuing drive as Peterson Kerlegrand rattled off the longest ISU rush of the 2021 season with a 59-yard carry over the right side

to put Indiana State ahead 24-7 with 3:36 to play in the first half. Phazione McClurge was sprung loose by a Daijon Collins block down the right sideline and he went untouched for an 88-yard touchdown reception with 11:19 remaining

in the third quarter to put the Sycamores ahead 31-7. Sampson recorded his second touchdown pass of the day for WIU as he targeted Ludovick Choquette for a five-yard score in the right flat to narrow the ISU lead down to

31-14 with 8:07 to play in the third quarter. The Leathernecks added their third touchdown of the day on a 10-yard Daniel Bender reception at the 4:41 mark in the third quarter to cut the Indiana State lead down to

31-21 following the eight-play, 91-yard drive. Alan Selzer converted his second field goal of the game, this one from 28 yards with 0:32 remaining in the third quarter, to put the Sycamores ahead 34-21 following the

10-play, 74-yard drive. Selzer added his third field goal of the day with a 24-yard conversion with 8:50 remaining in the fourth quarter to put the Sycamores ahead 37-21.

The Leathernecks added the final score of the game as Sampson found Tony Tate down the right sideline on the wheel route for a 21-yard touchdown with 37 seconds

remaining in the fourth quarter. Following the failed two-point conversion, the ISU lead held at 37-27. Indiana State featured a balanced offensive attack throughout the contest with the Sycamores posting 219 rushing yards and 226 passing yards in the win.

The Sycamores averaged 6.6 yards per carry over the contest with eight first downs coming on the ground. Western Illinois won the overall total yard battle, 477-445, and the Leathernecks recorded 31 total first downs in the contest. The Leathernecks finished the game with 28 total rushing yards on 28 carries. Western Illinois won the time of possession battle, 33:19-26:41.

The Sycamores won the turnover battle, 2-0. Travis Reiner recorded a 43.5 yard-per-punt average in the contest with two punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Saturday marked the second time in the 2021 season Dwayne Thompson II has wreaked havoc on the opposing punt team as his deflected punt in the second quarter set up

a short field that led to a Peterson Kerlegrand three-yard touchdown. Thompson caused the fumble that led to Hunter Lunsford's special teams touchdown in Indiana State's 23-21 win over Eastern Kentucky back on September 18. Phazione McClurge's 88-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter marked Indiana State's longest offensive play from scrimmage in the 2021 season and surpassed the 52-yard pass from Anthony Thompson to Rontrez Morgan in the second quarter against EKU on September 18.

Peterson Kerlegrand's 178 yard game marked his first 100-plus yard rushing effort since picking up 107 yards against South Dakota State back on October 19, 2019. It

was his highest rushing total since picking up 194 yards against Dayton in the September 7, 2019 season. Indiana State's six sacks in the contest marked a team-high in the Curt Mallory coaching era and eclipsed the previous mark of five which had been accomplished on two

separate occasions. Inoke Moala's 3.5 sacks in the first half marked a career-high for the redshirt senior defensive end and the single-game high in the Mallory coaching era.

Western Illinois' 28 rushing yards marked the fewest rushing yards allowed by an Indiana State defense since the 2014 season (27 yards, Oct. 25, 2014 vs. SIU) and just the third time in program history the Sycamores allowed fewer than 30 rushing yards in a game. Every week features a new career-high for tight end Zach Larkin as he set a new single-game high with 72 receiving yards, including a career-long 39-yard reception in

the first quarter.

Kaelub Newman's interception in the fourth quarter marked his first interception of the 2021 season and the Sycamores' first pickoff since Ty Hambright's interception

back on September 11 at Northwestern. Anthony Thompson's 226 passing yards marked a single-game high for the redshirt senior quarterback as he spread the ball to four separate receivers in the contest.

Tyce Ferrell became the 13th different Sycamore to record a catch on the season following his two-yard reception in the first quarter. The Sycamores improved to 18-26 all-time against the Leathernecks in the series. Indiana State has won three consecutive games against WIU and improved to 12-10 all-time in the series in Terre Haute. The win marked Indiana State's 399th win in program history.

Indiana State is back on the road next week as the Sycamores make the trip to Springfield, Mo. on Saturday, October 16, to take on Missouri State University in MVFC play. Kickoff between the Sycamores and the Bears is set for 3 p.m. ET and will be carried live on ESPN+ and 105.5 The Legend.