CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) -- Pierre Rembert rushed for 122 yards and the game-winning touchdown Saturday, leading Illinois State to a 24-13 victory over Eastern Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Division I playoffs.
The Redbirds (9-3) had 339 total yards of offense while holding the Panthers (8-5) to just 138 total yards, but still needed Rembert's 18-yard touchdown with 2:07 remaining to take a 17-13 lead.
On Eastern Illinois' next possession, Jesse Caesar picked off a Cole Stinson pass and ran it back 45 yards for a touchdown to end the scoring with one minute left.
"I'm incredibly proud of our team," said Illinois State coach Denver Johnson. "Both teams had a great chance to win that ball game and we were able to get it turned in our favor there at the end. Our defense stepped up in a big way."
Three of the game's four touchdowns were scored on interception returns, including two by Illinois State.
Jason Tate intercepted a Stinson pass and returned it 41 yards to put the Redbirds up 10-3 in the second quarter. Zach Yates kicked a 39-yard field goal to close the gap to 10-6 heading into halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Terrance Sanders picked off a Luke Drone pass and returned it 87 yards to put Eastern Illinois ahead 13-10 with 10 minutes remaining.
But the Redbirds were able to mount a decisive drive, capped by Rembert's 18-yard touchdown run.
"Eastern was out there playing great defense and they probably thought the game was over," Rembert said. "Everybody in our huddle knew this could be the last drive of the season so we kept fighting and clawing to get in the end zone, and we did."
Stinson completed 15-of-30 passes for 79 yards and three interceptions for Eastern Illinois.
Drone completed 16-of-33 passes for 177 yards and four interceptions for Illinois State. Rembert had 27 carries and became the school's single-season rushing leader with 1,622 yards, surpassing Toby Davis's 1992 high of 1,561 yards.
Illinois State will play the winner of the James Madison-Youngstown State game in the quarterfinals next Saturday.