BY ISU MEDIA RELATIONS
TERRE HAUTE – Indiana State was unable to overcome six turnovers in the 2023 season opener and Eastern Illinois capitalized with a pair of interceptions returned for scores as the Sycamores fell to the visiting Panthers on Thursday night at Memorial Stadium, 27-0.
The Sycamores (0-1) were able to move the ball against the Eastern Illinois (1-0) defense as the Sycamores posted 16 first downs and held possession for 30:11 in the contest. However, the EIU defense was opportunistic with four interceptions, including a pair of pick-sixes in the final minute of the first half to pull away from Indiana State in the win.
ISU posted four drives of six plays or longer, including a 13-play, 71-yard drive in the second quarter, but the Sycamores drive ended with a fumble inside EIU territory that ended ISU’s best scoring chance in the contest.
Gavin Screws finished 13-of-24 through the air for 116 yards with two interceptions. Evan Olaes added a team-high 59 rushing yards on nine carries and threw two picks through the air in the loss. Korbin Allen was strong late in the contest with 29 rushing yards on five carries.
Sullivan High School grad Dakota Caton led the Sycamore receiving efforts with a team-high six catches for 70 yards. The former Golden Arrow great also racked up 78 kick return yards to finish with a game-high of 148 all-purpose yards.
Maddix Blackwell recorded the first double-digit tackling effort of his collegiate career with 11 stops to pace the Sycamore defense. The redshirt sophomore safety added a half-tackle for loss and his second career interception to lead ISU. Micah Hauser added six solo tackles in the loss, while Lucas Hunter forced a fumble.
Pierce Holley lead Eastern Illinois’ offense going 19-of-30 through the air for 244 yards with touchdown passes to both Justin Bowick and Anthony Manaves in the win. Kevin Daniels picked up 57 rushing yards on 13 carries, while Eli Mirza had a team-high four catches for 82 yards.
Elijawah Tolbert was active on the EIU defense with 11 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception in the win. Tyris Harvey and NiJhay Burt both recorded pick-sixes in the win, while Joel Barrows and Russell Dandy both had fumble recoveries.
How They Scored
- Eastern Illinois took the lead with 10:08 in the first quarter as Pierce Holley targeted Justin Bowick for a 35-yard touchdown connection. The Panthers’ extra point sailed wide left to leave EIU ahead 6-0 in the first quarter.
- Tyris Harvey doubled the EIU lead with 55 seconds left in the second quarter as the EIU defensive back stepped in front of a Sycamore pass and returned the ball up the right sideline for a 19-yard interception return to make it a 12-0 score. The Panthers’ two-point conversion attempt fell short.
- EIU returned a second interception for a score with 21 seconds left in the first half as NiJhay Burt stepped in front of a deep pass and weaved his way through the ISU offense to put the Panthers ahead 18-0. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete to keep the score the same heading into the half.
- The Panthers added to their lead with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter as a botched ISU snap on a punt left the ball to roll through the end zone for a safety to put the score at 20-0 in favor of EIU.
- EIU’s final points came with 3:20 remaining as Holley connected on a two-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Manaves in the right flat, while William Orth converted the PAT to cap the scoring in the 27-0 game.
Inside the Numbers
- Indiana State finished the game with 217 total offensive yards (101 rushing) in the first game of the 2023 regular season.
- The Sycamores posted 16 first downs and held the 30:11-29:49 edge in time of possession on Thursday night.
- Indiana State converted 4-of-14 third downs in the game and went 1-of-4 on fourth downs.
- Eastern Illinois finished the game with 338 total offensive yards over 61 plays averaging 5.5 yards per play in the contest.
- The Panthers recorded 244 yards through the air with both offensive scores coming through the passing game.
- Both teams were successful in the punting/field position game with ISU (43.0 ypk) and EIU (42.5 ypk) both dropping two punts inside the 20 on Thursday.
News & Notes
- Indiana State’s Thursday evening loss to Eastern Illinois snapped a three-game winning streak against the Panthers dating back to the 2018 season.
- The loss also snapped a two-game winning streak when ISU opened the season at home dating back to the start of the 2021 season when the Sycamores topped EIU, 26-21.
- Thursday’s contest marked the first time Indiana State was shutout by the Panthers since the 2009 season when EIU topped ISU 31-0 at Memorial Stadium.
- It marked the 13th time in the programs’ histories that EIU shutout the Sycamore offense dating back to the inaugural contest in 1901.
- The shutout marked the first time the Sycamore failed to score since ISU was shutout by Purdue last season in West Lafayette.
- ISU surrendered two pick-sixes on Thursday night marking the first time the Sycamores surrendered a pair of interception returns for scores since Northern Iowa’s Tim Kilfoy and Jamison Whiting both returned interceptions for touchdowns in the 2015 season.
- Dakota Caton’s six receptions equaled his career-high set last season at Northern Iowa on October 1, 2022.
- Maddix Blackwell’s 11 tackles shattered his career-high seven tackles set last season vs. Purdue on September 10, 2022.
Indiana State heads to Bloomington, Ind. and Memorial Stadium on Friday, September 8, as the Sycamores take on Indiana University to continue to the 2023 season. Kickoff between the in-state foes is set for 7 p.m. ET and will be carried live on the Big Ten Network.