Coprich leads Illinois St past E Washington 59-46

CHENEY, Wash. (AP) Illinois State coach Brock Spack said his physical football team was determined to ''bring the fight to the center of the ring'' against Eastern Washington. The Redbirds' plan worked to perfection Saturday afternoon, thanks largely to the one-two punch provided by Marshaun Coprich and Tre Roberson.

Coprich ran for 258 yards and four touchdowns, and Roberson passed for 206 yards and two TD's and ran for 62 yards and another score in a 59-46 win in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

''We felt we were heavy punchers and they were boxers,'' Spack said after the Redbirds dominated much of the game before Eastern scored 26 points in the final quarter.

The fifth-seeded Redbirds (12-1), co-champions of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, advance to the semifinals at top-seeded New Hampshire (11-1) on Friday or Saturday. The fourth-seeded Eagles, champions of the Big Sky Conference, finished 11-3.

Coprich, the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, set a career high for rushing yards in a game and tied his career best for single-game rushing touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior has topped 100 rushing yards every game this season.

''He's tough; he's hard to tackle; he's got good foot speed,'' Spack said. ''He sees things a lot of good backs don't see. That's what makes him a great back.''

Roberson, a junior transfer from Indiana, picked apart Eastern Washington with short passes to help the Redbirds break the school record of 11 wins set in 1999. Roberson completed 19 of 24 passes, with no interceptions.

''They're a great team and a great offense,'' EWU linebacker Ronnie Hamlin said.

Vernon Adams, one of three finalists for FCS offensive player of the year, passed for 425 yards and three touchdowns for the Eagles. All of his TD passes, 283 of his passing yards and his one rushing touchdown came in the fourth quarter.

''I just felt a little bit different, just a little bit tight (in EWU's two playoff games),'' Adams said.

Adams struggled with accuracy on his passes at times.

The Redbirds jumped out front 10-0 in the first quarter, led 24-17 at the half and went ahead 45-20 after three periods. The game was played in near-freezing temperatures on the red artificial turf of Eastern Washington's Roos Field.

The Redbirds topped the Eagles 542-520 in total yards before 6,239 spectators.

''I told our players at halftime, `Be ready for a flurry (of offense by EWU), because they can score and score quickly,''' Spack said.

Coprich's fourth touchdown, a 74-yard romp with 7 minutes, 29 seconds left, pushed the Illinois State lead to 59-39. The Redbirds' massive offensive line cleared the way for Coprich, who has set single-season school records with 2,161 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns.

''Our offensive line came out ready to play, especially that second half,'' Coprich said.

''They're very, very good,'' Spack said of his offensive line, ''so we lean on them.''

Hamlin, a sixth-year senior whose first two college seasons were wiped out by knee operations, broke the Big Sky record of 471 career tackles. Montana State's Kane Ione set the record from 2000-03.

Hamlin tied his career high of 16 tackles in one game to finish with 473 tackles, seventh in FCS history.

''Awesome memories . I'm going to miss it a lot,'' a red-eyed Hamlin said.

Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp caught 10 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. His school-record 104 receptions this season rank second in Big Sky history.

A medical emergency in the stands involving the father of Eastern Washington offensive tackle Jake Rodgers interrupted the game for approximately 25 minutes with 1:40 to play. The elder Rodgers left by ambulance.

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