James Snook-US PRESSWIRE
Eastern Washington advanced to the FCS semifinals on its home red turf on Saturday.
After seeing a big second-half lead disappear, the Eastern Washington Eagles stormed back to handily defeat the Illinois State Redbirds, 51-35, in the quarterfinals of the NCAA FCS Playoffs on Saturday night in Cheney, Wash.
Eagles receiver Brandon Kaufman made his presence known in the second half as he totaled 191 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the night. After Illinois State cut its deficit to 38-35, Eastern Washington began to rebuild its cushion when Kyle Padron hit Kaufman on a 76-yard touchdown pass. The Eagles' defense stood tall to maintain the advantage, as the Redbirds were held scoreless the rest of the night.
North Dakota State
Sam Houston State
Earlier, to open the second half, Kaufman hauled in a pair of touchdown passes from Padron, who threw for 358 yards and six touchdowns. After the first, a 47-yard touchdown less than four minutes into the third quarter, the Eagles' Ronnie Hamlin intercepted a pass from Illinois State's Matt Brown. Just 15 seconds after the first touchdown, Padron connected with Kaufman on a 17-yard score to make it 38-17.
The Redbirds scored 18 unanswered points following that score, but the Eagles would regroup behind Padron and Kaufman to secure the win.
Brown threw for 360 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the loss for Illinois State, who finished the season with a 9-4 record.
Eastern Washington (11-2) advanced to the FCS Playoffs semifinals, where the Eagles will host the Sam Houston State Bearkats on either Dec. 14 or Dec. 15.