Thomas’ interception TD ensures Indiana State’s 26-21 win

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP)Michael Thomas turned his second interception Saturday into a 75-yard touchdown and Indiana State opened the season with a 26-21 victory over Eastern Illinois.

Thomas, who also had a team-leading 10 tackles, grabbed a deflected pass and raced down the left sideline early in the fourth quarter for a 24-14 lead.

Otto Kuhns’ scored on a fourth-and-1 sneak with 2:56 remaining to cut the Sycamores’ lead to three. The Panthers got the ball back at their 7 after a 49-yard punt but an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone resulted in a safety at game’s end.

Backup Sycamores quarterback Michael Haubert extended a 10-7 halftime lead when he weaved his way 44 yards in the third quarter. EIU answered on its next possession on Tyler Hamilton’s 4-yard score, set up after Kuhns connected with Demetrius Garrett for a 61-yard pass to the 11.

Indiana State got off to a fast start in its first game since the end of the 2019 season, scoring on Peterson Kerlegrand’s 3-yard run on the Sycamores’ opening drive. Dante Hendrix led off the drive with a reception, his 22nd consecutive game with a catch to set a school record, passing Robert Tonyan’s previous mark (2015-16).

Alan Selzer kicked a 48-yard field goal before the Panthers closed to 10-7 on Harrison Bey-Buie’s 2-yard score on a drive spurred by Arron Foulkes’ 26-yard diving reception and a pass interference call in the end zone.

EIU, which played six games in the spring, outgained Indiana State 378-245 and had eight more first downs. But the Sycamores had Thomas’ two picks plus a fumble recovery along with five sacks.

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