Naperville Central alum Kolbe guides Redbirds past Northwestern in gridiron clash
Illinois State quarterback Jake Kolbe thought he played “pretty well” against Northwestern.
His “pretty well” included going 7-for-7 passing for 63 yards in the final three minutes, 11 seconds to lead the drive to the game-winning field goal as the Football Championship Subdivision Redbirds toppled Football Bowl Subdivision and Big Ten power Northwestern 9-7 on Sept. 10 in Evanston.
His late-fourth-quarter excellence was part the big day for the Naperville Central alumnus: 30-for-41 passing, 287 yards and two interceptions, reported GoRedbirds.com — all against a Northwestern defense projected to be one of the best around.
“(I) made some mistakes, but I am going to try to learn from them and continue to get better,” Kolbe told the Will County Gazette. “We have a great team here and I have a lot of really good players around me, which makes my job much easier.”
The victory launched Illinois State into the No. 5 spot in the national FCS rankings, making ISU one of five Missouri Valley Football Conference teams in the top 10, GoRedbirds.com reported.
“It's always good to play a team with as much talent and as well coached as Northwestern was, so I definitely think it was good for us, but we have another big game this week (vs. Eastern Illinois on Sept. 17 in Normal) that we are now focused on,” Kolbe said.
The team felt confident going into the Northwestern game, Kolbe said. He also said it was fun playing in the game, especially with familiar faces on the other side and in the stands.
“It was cool playing some players that I have been going head to head with for some time now,” he said. “It was a great atmosphere, and we had a great showing of Redbird fans throughout the stadium.”
The win led to a fun, celebratory bus ride home, he said — before the team went out and practiced the next day to focus on the next opponent.
Kolbe, a sophomore, gave the Redbird faithful a lot to cheer about in the team's first two games this season. He was 41-of-60 passing — a completion percentage of 68.3 — for 453 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, along with notching a rushing touchdown. This season is Kolbe's first as the sole starter, having split time last season with Tre Roberson. In 12 appearances last season, including two starts, he was 26-for-40 passing for 264 yards, as the Redbirds went 10-3 and reached the FCS quarterfinals.
The last time Kolbe was the sole captain at the helm of a football team, he was leading Naperville Central to the Class 8A state championship in 2013 and earning a slew of individual honors along the way. He said that he's learned many little things so far at ISU, but that there's still more to learn.
“I definitely need to improve on limiting turnovers and being smarter with the football but that is just one of many things that I need to continue to get better at so that I can help our team win,” he said.