Redbirds and Panthers Meet In 2013 Mid-America Classic
Colton Underwood
Colton Underwood

Sept. 11, 2013

 #16 Illinois State (0-1, 0-0 MVFC) at #9 Eastern Illinois (2-0, 0-0 OVC)
 Date  Saturday, Sept. 14
 Location
 Charleston, Ill.
 Kickoff
 6:05 p.m. CT
 Stadium
 O'Brien Field
 Stadium Capacity
 10,000
 Radio  WJBC/Country Financial Illinois State Radio Network (Dick Luedke - Play-by-Play | Ted Schmitz - Analyst)
 Broadcast  OVC Digital Network
 Redbird Preview Podcast  Week 2
 Live Stats  SideArm Stats
 Game Notes  Illinois State | Eastern Illinois | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Senior defensive lineman Colton Underwood had one of the best games of his career last season against the Panthers. The Washington, Ill., native set new career-highs with three sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss to go along with a game-high 13 tackles. That performance catapulted him to a great season, which saw him earn First-Team All-America honors from several organizations and finish sixth overall in the Buck Buchanan Award voting. Underwood is a 2013 preseason All-American and is also on the Buchanan Watch list once again.

THE GAME
A pair of longtime foes and two of the Football Championship Subdivision's top teams square off Saturday night, when No. 16 Illinois State (0-1) heads to Charleston, Ill., to face No. 9 Eastern Illinois (2-0) in the 102nd meeting of the Mid-America Classic.

THE SERIES
Saturday's game renews the oldest FCS football rivalry in the State of Illinois and the 13th-oldest at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. ISU and EIU have played 101 times, with the first game being played in 1901. The Redbirds have won eight of the last 11 games against the Panthers and lead the series, 52-40-9.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fifth season as the head coach at Illinois State (28-19). Spack led the Redbirds to their first playoff victory since 2006, just the third nine-win season in school history and was a finalist for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award.
Eastern Illinois: Dino Babers (Hawaii, 1984) is in his second season as the head coach at Eastern Illinois (9-5). Babers was named the OVC Coach of the Year in 2012, after he became just the fourth coach in OVC history to guide a program to the playoffs in his first season as a head coach.

THE #REDBIRDFOOTBALL PROGRAM

  • Four FCS playoff appearances (1998, 1999, 2006, 2012)
  • Three-time FCS quarterfinalists (1999, 2006, 2012)
  • Four-straight winning seasons for the first time since the 1940's
  • Team is 17-6 at home under Spack's guidance.
  • ISU was 6-1 on the road last year, with a perfect 5-0 finish in the regular season.
  • The team set a program-record cumulative GPA in the Spring 2013 semester.

THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • Eastern Illinois University is located in Charleston, Ill., and has an enrollment of 10,417 students. The Panthers are members of the Ohio Valley Conference and play their home games at O'Brien Field (10,000).
  • EIU finished the 2012 season with an overall record of 7-5 and a 6-1 mark in the OVC. That was good enough for the Panthers to advance to the school's 14th FCS playoff appearance.
  • The Panthers are off to a quick 2-0 start in 2013, following a 40-19 victory over San Diego State in the season opener and a double overtime victory over in-state foe Southern Illinois last weekend.
  • The Panthers are ranked No. 9 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 this week, following their dramatic win over the Salukis, and are ranked No. 12 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
  • EIU is led by a pair of talented offensive stars in senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and senior wide receiver Erik Lora. Both are on the watch list for the 2013 Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top offensive player in FCS football.
  • Garoppolo finished 10th in voting for Walter Payton Award last season, after earning second team All-OVC honors. He's off to a fast start in 2013, as he's thrown for over 800 yards and seven touchdowns in the team's first two games of the season.
  • Lora has been his favorite target thus far, catching 21 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns in the wins over San Diego State and Southern Illinois. Last season, Lora set a FCS single-season record with 136 catches which earned him consensus first-team All-American honors and the OVC Offensive Player of the Year award.

The Last Meeting
Eastern Illinois (Family Weekend)51  
Illinois State54(2OT)
September 15, 2012
Normal, Ill.
No. 15 ISU Wins Double OT Thriller, 54-51, Over EIU
A 25-yard touchdown pass from senior Matt Brown to fellow senior Tyrone Walker sealed No. 15 Illinois State's (3-0) come-from-behind 54-51 double overtime victory over Eastern Illinois (1-2) in the annual Mid-America Classic before a capacity-crowd of 7,700 Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium.


THE LAST TIME THEY MET
A 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Brown to Tyrone Walker sealed No. 15 Illinois State's come-from-behind 54-51 double-overtime victory over Eastern Illinois before a capacity-crowd at Hancock Stadium last season. Brown set Illinois State single-game records for passing yards (473) and completions (42), and tied his career high with five touchdown passes in the game.

TALES OF THE MID-AMERICA CLASSIC

  • Oct. 27, 1906 - Illinois State's six-hour bus drive to Charleston, Ill., was only made worse by an 11-6 defeat.
  • Nov. 3, 1915 - Both teams fumbled inside each other's 10-yard line in this 0-0 game played at EIU.
  • Nov. 11, 1916 - EIU visited Normal, Ill., for the first ever Homecoming game on Illinois State's campus. ISU scored its only points on a 45-yard blocked punt by Ritter in a 24-7 loss.
  • Nov. 14, 1959 - Illinois State linemen wear gloves for the first time on a snowy, icy day, as Dave Babcock scored the only Illinois State touchdown in a 6-6 tie.
  • Sept. 30, 1961 - Illinois State's Keith Reiger's touchdown pass to Bill Monken "probably set an IIAC record for the shortest TD pass: 18 inches" in the Redbirds' 18-0 win.
  • Sept. 29, 1962 - Paul Whitmore's 91-yard punt return was the only score in this 6-0 Redbird victory. It still remains the longest punt return for a touchdown in Illinois State history.
  • Oct. 10, 1981 - ISU reserve Andy Fladung came off the bench to intercept a school-record four passes in the Redbirds' 25-3 win.
  • Sept. 16, 2006 - Marked the first time in the history of the Illinois State-Eastern Illinois series where both teams were nationally ranked. The Redbirds entered the game No. 7 and Panthers were ranked No. 18. ISU trailed, 10-0, after the first quarter, but a 23-point second quarter put the 'Birds in control of a 44-30 win. Pierre Jackson had a career-high 132 receiving yards on six catches.
  • Nov. 25, 2006 - Two months after facing each other in the regular season, ISU and EIU met each other in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs. ISU's Jason Tate (41 yards) and Jesse Caesar (45 yards) each return interceptions for touchdowns in the 24-13 Redbird win.
  • Sept. 15, 2012 - A 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Brown to Tyrone Walker sealed No. 15 ISU's come-from-behind 54-51 double-overtime victory over EIU. The 105 combined points scored were the most between the two teams in the 101-year history of the rivalry. Brown set Illinois State single-game records for passing yards (473) and completions (42), and tied his career high with five touchdown passes in the game.

A FAMILIAR FOE
No. 16 Illinois State heads to Charleston, Ill., to face No. 9 Eastern Illinois in the 102nd meeting of the Mid-America Classic. The game renews the oldest FCS football rivalry in the State of Illinois and the 13th-oldest at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. ISU and EIU have played 101 times, with the first game being played in 1901. The Redbirds have won eight of the last 11 games and lead the series, 52-40-9. ISU heads into the game ranked No. 16 and Eastern Illinois moved up five spots to No. 9 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25. That means Saturday's match up will be the first between the two longtime rivals in which both were ranked since 2006.

TWO YARDS AND A CLOUD OF DUST
When junior college transfer Collin Keoshian transferred to Illinois State, he knew he was going to get a chance to compete immediately for playing time and make an impact. The big back did just that in the season opener at Ball State (Aug. 29), as he scored a pair of touchdowns near the goal line for the Redbirds. Keoshian capped off ISU's game-opening scoring drive with a one-yard TD and scored from two yards out late in the fourth quarter. In total, he carried the ball eight times for a total of 10 yards and picked up a pair of crucial first-down conversions.

BIG SHOES TO FILL
Over the past two seasons, Illinois State middle linebacker Pat Meehan has learned from a pair of First-Team All-MVFC performers in Josh Howe and Mike Zimmer. Against Ball State (Aug. 29), Meehan led the Redbirds with eight tackles and called plays like a seasoned veteran. With some luck and standout play, he could become the third-straight Redbird middle linebacker to take home first-team honors.

STRONG DEBUTS
Several new Redbirds had strong debuts in their first games at ISU at Ball State (Aug. 29). Iowa State transfer quarterback Jared Barnett was very efficient, as he finished the game 20-for-29 for 282 yards with a pair of TD passes. One of those passes went to true freshman Anthony Warrum, who hauled in a pair of passes for 65 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. Junior college transfer running back Collin Keoshian also had a solid game, as he picked up several first downs on third-and-short situations and scored a pair of TDs near the goal line in his first ISU action.

DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH
Junior quarterback Jared Barnett was not afraid to throw the football to any of his targets on the field against Ball State (Aug. 29), as eight different players caught passes in the game for the Redbirds. Junior tight end James O'Shaughnessy led the way with five catches for 57 yards, and seniors Phil Dudley and Corey Shandrick each added four grabs apiece. In addition, four Redbirds caught their first career passes in the game, including freshman receiver Anthony Warrum, sophomore tight end Brian Athey, junior fullback Matt Meyers and senior wideout Chick Chatham.

SLICK RICK
Senior defensive end Rickey Simpson had a career effort against Ball State, as he took advantage of a lot of attention being paid to All-American Colton Underwood on the opposite end of the defensive front. He recorded a career-best two sacks in the game to go along with five tackles and a QB hurry. Simpson also led the way for the defense that allowed just 80 total yards on the ground, including just 49 to Doak Walker Award candidate Jahwan Edwards.

FOR OPENERS
In the last five seasons, the Redbirds have gone 2-3 in season openers under head coach Brock Spack. Two of those losses came on the road to longtime foe Eastern Illinois and the most recent to Ball State (Aug. 29). However, the Redbirds have had better luck in home openers, winning the first game at Hancock Stadium in each of the last four seasons. The Redbirds will open the 2013 season and the newly-renovated Hancock Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21 against Abilene Christian.

THE MAN FOR THE JOB
When Illinois State head coach Brock Spack was hired prior to the 2009 season, he referred to the Redbird football program as a sleeping giant that needed to be woken up. With four-straight winning seasons and a FCS quarterfinal appearance in 2012, the giant is stirring. Spack became the first head coach to guide his team to four-consecutive winning seasons since Edwin Struck led the Redbirds to six-straight winning seasons from 1945-1950. After leading his team to an 9-4 record and the team's first playoff appearance since 2006, Spack was named one of 20 finalists for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award by The Sports Network.

UNDERWOOD ON THE NATIONAL RADAR
Last year, defensive end Colton Underwood was named a First-Team All-America selection by The Walter Camp Football Foundation, The Associated Press and The Sports Network and was listed as a College Sporting News 2012 Fabulous Fifty FCS All-America Team member. He finished sixth overall in the voting for the 2012 Buck Buchanan Award and was honored with the 2012 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) FCS Defensive End Award, after leading the MVFC in sacks (10.5) and tackles-for-loss (19.5). It comes as no surprise to just about anyone that Underwood found himself on the Buchanan Award Preseason Watch List for 2013 and on every preseason All-America team.