Wilderman, McClurge’s late-game heroics pace Sycamores past Eastern Kentucky, 23-21
Credit Source: Seth Montgomery/Indiana State University Athletics
RICHMOND, Ky. – Kurtis Wilderman found Phazione McClurge for the go-ahead 24-yard touchdown pass as time expired at Roy Kidd Stadium to propel Indiana State past Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night, 23-21.
Trailing 21-17 following a four-yard Da’Joun Hewitt touchdown run with 0:49 remaining on the clock, the Sycamores (2-1) took advantage of an EKU (1-2) onside kick attempt to open their final drive at the EKU 48. Wilderman found Matt Sora for 13 yards and added an 11-yard completion to Zack Larkin to move the ball down to the Colonels 24 with less than 10 seconds remaining.
After an incomplete pass down the left sideline to Rontrez Morgan, the Sycamores lined up for one final snap with :02 remaining on the clock. Wilderman was hit as he threw the ball and McClurge had the defense collapse on him as he went up at the goal line for the go-ahead score. Following an official review to confirm the game-winning touchdown, the Sycamores sideline erupted and the Indiana State Fight Song rang out on the sideline signifying the INS win.
The game featured clutch moments on both sides with the Sycamores taking advantage of a muffed snap on a punt to score the first points of the game, while Eastern Kentucky utilized Davion Moss’ pick-six to tie the game up at 14-14 heading into the half.
In the second half, it was a defensive battle with Alan Selzer’s 32-yard field goal in the third quarter looking like it would provide the difference until the excitement over the final minute of play.
Wilderman finished the game 11-of-17 through the air for 111 yards and one touchdown – all coming in the second half. McClurge continued his breakout season with a team-high six catches for 75 yards and added two touchdowns in the INS win.
Peterson Kerlegrand paced the Sycamores ground game with 13 carries for 45 yards. Rontrez Morgan added four catches for 75 yards to supplement the offensive attack.
Defensively, Geoffrey Brown (seven tackles, 1.5 TFL) and Inoke Moala (four tackles, 1.5 TFL) were consistently in the backfield for the Sycamores defense. Mekhi Ware added five tackles and four pass breakups in the win.
EKU quarterback Parker McKinney was 23-of-38 through the air for 205 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Bryant Johnson hauled in a team-high five catches for 38 yards, while Malik Owens posted three catches, 37 yards, and the Colonels lone score through the air.
How They Scored
- The special teams came through with the first points of the game as Dwayne Thompson II knocked the ball out of the punter’s hands on a muffed snap and Hunter Lunsford scooped and scored from five yards out to put the Sycamores ahead 7-0 with 7:39 remaining in the first quarter.
- Eastern Kentucky responded with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by Parker McKinney’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Malik Owens at the 2:24 mark in the first quarter to even the score at 7-7.
- A 52-yard bomb from Anthony Thompson to Rontrez Morgan led to a 10-yard touchdown pass to Phazione McClurge in the right corner of the end zone to cap an 8-play, 73-yard drive and put the Sycamores ahead 14-7 with 7:48 left in the first half.
- EKU’s defense tied the game up at 14-14 with 4:33 remaining in the first half as Davion Ross returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown on a third-down play.
- Zach Larkin’s 14-yard pickup on 4th-and-2 set up Alan Selzer’s 32-yard field goal to cap a 15-play, 57-yard drive that spanned 8:04 in the third quarter and put the Sycamores ahead 17-14.
- Da’Joun Hewitt gave the Colonels their first lead of the game with a four-yard touchdown plunge with 49 seconds remaining in the contest to cap a 14-play, 80-yard drive and put EKU ahead 21-17.
- The Sycamores stunned the EKU home crowd as Wilderman completed the game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass to Phazione McClurge as time expired to close out the 23-21 Sycamores win.
Inside the Numbers
- Indiana State won the total yardage battle (319-287) to Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night.
- The Sycamores held a 17-14 first-down edge and held onto the ball for 29:17 over the four quarters on the night.
- Indiana State was 17-of-34 through the air for a season-high 213 passing yards on the day.
- The Sycamores added 106 rushing yards with a 3.7 yards per carry average in the contest.
- Travis Reiner was another weapon for the Sycamores on the evening with a 41.8 average over his five punts and pinned Eastern Kentucky inside their 20-yard line on three separate occasions.
- Indiana State lost the turnover battle for the first time this season, but the points off turnover battle was even at 7-7 with both teams scoring directly after taking the football.
News & Notes
- Saturday’s matchup featured the 11th meeting all-time between the Sycamores and the Colonels and first since the 2019 season.
- Indiana State runs their winning streak over EKU to three consecutive games dating back to the 2014 season and improves to 4-7 all-time in the series.
- Hunter Lunsford’s scoop-and-score on the muffed snap was Indiana State’s first fumble return for a touchdown since the 2019 season when Inoke Moala went two yards to the end zone in the Sycamores contest against Kansas (Aug. 31, 2019).
- Phazione McClurge’s second quarter touchdown catch marked the first touchdown of his Sycamore career, while his two-touchdown game was the first by an Indiana State receiver in the 2021 season.
- Davion Ross’ pick-six for the Colonels marked the first touchdown the Sycamores had given up on an interception return since the 2019 Kansas game.
- Rontrez Morgan has surpassed his season-high in catches as the senior wide receiver has 19 catches through the first three games in 2021, passing his previous best of 15 set in the 2018 season.
- Noah Ellison became the ninth Indiana State player to record a reception this season with a five-yard catch in the third quarter from Kurtis Wilderman.
- McClurge and Morgan’s 75 receiving yards tied for the season-high for the Sycamores on the year.
- Anthony Thompson’s 52-yard pass to Rontrez Morgan in the second quarter marked the longest offensive play of the 2021 season for Indiana State to date.
Indiana State is back in action next weekend with a home date against nationally-ranked South Dakota State on September 25. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is set for 1 p.m. with the game to be carried live on ESPN+ and 105.5 The Legend.