MVFC Play Opens at Missouri State for No. 24 Ranked Redbirds
Starting QB Blake Winkler

Starting QB Blake Winkler

Sept. 24, 2013

 #24 Illinois State (1-2) at Missouri State (0-4) | 2013 MVFC Opener
 Date  Saturday, Sept. 28
 Location
 Springfield, Mo.
 Kickoff
 1 p.m. CT
 Stadium
 Plaster Field
 Stadium Capacity
 16,300
 Radio  WJBC/Country Financial Illinois State Radio Network (Dick Luedke - Play-by-Play | Ted Schmitz - Analyst)
 Watch  RedbirdHD.tv
 Live Stats  GameTracker
 Game Notes  Illinois State | Missouri State | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Winkler picked up a win in his first collegiate start last week against Abilene Christian at Hancock Stadium. The Frankfort, Ill., native completed 18 of his 25 attempts and passed for 201 yards and a touchdown in the victory over the Wildcats. Winkler also rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries, with a long run of 15 yards. His lone touchdown throw came on a 19-yard strike late in the second quarter to wide receiver Cameron Meredith to put the Redbirds up 17-10 at the time.

THE GAME
Coming off a victory in the home opener last week, No. 24 Illinois State (1-2) will hit the road Saturday to open Missouri Valley Football Conference play in Springfield, Mo., against Missouri State (0-4).

THE SERIES
The Redbirds and the Bears will meet for the 34th time on the gridiron Saturday. Illinois State leads the all-time series 17-15-1, but dropped a 24-17 decision to the Bears at Hancock Stadium last season. Overall, the 'Birds have won eight of the last 11 games against the Bears and have won four out of the last five contests at Plaster Field.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fifth season as the head coach at Illinois State (29-20). 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.

Missouri State: Terry Allen (UNI, 1979) is in his eighth season as the head coach at Missouri State (28-53). Allen, the former head coach at UNI and Kansas, has produced 47 all-conference players and 29 academic all-conference players in his first seven campaigns with the Bears.

THE PROGRAM IN THE PLAYOFFS

  • Fourth playoff appearance in school history (1998, 1999, 2006, 2012)
  • Third appearance in FCS quarterfinals (1999, 2006, 2012)
  • 4-3 overall record in FCS playoff games in school history
  • 3-3 record in road playoff games, including 1-1 record in 2006
  • The 1999 team advanced to the FCS semifinals, with wins at home over Colgate and on the road against Hofstra. ISU eventually fell to eventual national champion Georgia Southern by a score of 28-17 in the semifinals, as Payton Award winner Adrian Peterson ran for three touchdowns and 183 yards on the ground.

THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • Missouri State University is located in Springfield, Mo., and has an enrollment of 23,071 students. The Bears are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at Plaster Field (16,300).
  • The Bears finished the 2012 season with a 3-8 overall record and a 3-5 mark in MVFC play.
  • MSU is off to a tough 0-4 start in 2013, with losses to Northwestern State, Iowa, Murray State and Central Arkansas. Three of those four losses were by seven points are less.
  • The Bears put up a solid effort last week against No. 13 Central Arkansas. MSU's defense surrendered just 58 rushing yards to UCA, and shut out the visitors in the second half.
  • Something has got to give Saturday, as Missouri State leads the MVFC and ranks 17th nationally in red zone defense (.692), while Illinois State has scored in each of its 10 trips inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
  • The Bears are led offensively by junior dual-threat quarterback Kierra Harris. Harris has a pass efficiency rating of 97.97 and has thrown for 711 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harris also leads the team with five rushing touchdowns and has racked up 160 yards on the ground this season.
  • Defensively, the Bears are led by All-American safety Caleb Schaffitzel, who eclipsed 200 career tackles in MSU's41-38 loss at Murray State (Sept. 14). He leads the team with 33 tackles, one sack, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and two pass breakups. He joins Illinois State's Colton Underwood on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS VS. MISSOURI STATE

  • Oct. 2, 1971 at Missouri State
    Billy Lewis gained 141 yards on 27 attempts and third-string quarterback Steve Hagenbruch scored the game-winning touchdown with 40 seconds left in the game to give ISU a 21-18 win over MSU in the first game in the series.
  • Sept. 28, 1974 vs. Missouri State
    Dennis Laws racked up 118 yards on the ground on Lettermen's Night, as the Redbirds shutout the Bears 28-0 at Hancock Stadium.
  • Sept. 30 at Missouri State
    Todd Kurz kicked a game-winning 38-yard field goal in overtime propelled ISU to a 20-17 win over Missouri State, in a game that was delayed for over 40 minutes by a power outage caused by a storm in the second half.\
  • Nov. 5, 2005 at Missouri State
    Pierre Rembert rushed for a school-record 272 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Redbirds to a 48-23 road victory over the Bears at Plaster Field.
  • Sept. 25, 2010 vs. Missouri State
    Kicker Steven Fetzer nailed a 39-yard field goal in double overtime to give the Redbirds a 44-41 win over the Bears. Running back Ashton Leggett scored four times on the ground and quarterback Matt Brown threw for 391 yards.


The Last Meeting
Missouri State (Agriculture Day)24
Illinois State17
October 20, 2012
Normal, Ill.
No. 11 Redbirds Fall To Missouri State, 24-17
The Illinois State football team (6-2, 3-2 MVFC) was outscored 15-3 in the fourth quarter by Missouri State (2-6, 2-3 MVFC), as a 14-9 lead turned into a 24-17 defeat, Saturday afternoon, at Hancock Stadium.


THE LAST TIME THEY MET (OCT. 20, 2012)
Illinois State was out-scored 15-3 in the fourth quarter by Missouri State, as a 14-9 lead turned into a 24-17 defeat at Hancock Stadium. In the second quarter, ISU starting quarterback Matt Brown became the Missouri Valley Football Conference's all-time leading yards passer, surpassing Northern Iowa's Ryan Helming (9,089). He finished the game with 204, giving him 9,232 passing yards at the time.

FOR OPENERS
In the last five seasons, the Redbirds have had a lot of luck in home openers with wins in each of those contests at Hancock Stadium under head coach Brock Spack. After an 0-2 start to the season, the 'Birds bounced back and secured a 31-17 win over Abilene Christian (Sept. 21) in the home opener and the first game in the newly-renovated facility. As the Redbirds open MVFC play this weekend, they do so with a 2-2 mark in conference-opening games under Spack.

SHORT YARD SPECIALIST
When Collin Keoshian was brought in during the offseason as a transfer, he was expected to help in short yardage situations and give the Redbirds a big, power back to complement the rest of the running back stable. Through three games, Keoshian has been extremely valuable in short-yardage situations and has scored four touchdowns on the ground. Each of those touchdowns has been scored from 10 yards or less, with three from under three yards or less.

SEEING RED
Converting on scoring chances in the red zone is crucial to a team's success, and has proved beneficial for the Redbirds so far in 2013. The Redbirds scored three touchdowns and added a field goal to go a perfect 4-for-4 in red zone chances in their win against Abilene Christian. That upped the team's mark to a perfect 10-for-10 in the red zone this year, with eight touchdowns scored and two field goal conversions.

QUICK STARTERS
Getting off to a quick start on offense is the goal of every team and the Redbirds have certainly done that in 2013. ISU has scored on each of its opening drives in the team's three games this season. Collin Keoshian gave the Redbirds an early lead at Ball State with a one-yard touchdown run that capped off a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive to open the game against the Cardinals. Jared Barnett got the Redbirds started quickly in game two at Eastern Illinois with a four-play, 64-yard scoring drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Warrum. Keoshian made it 3-for-3, when he scored from 10 yards out on the opening drive against Abilene Christian Saturday to put a bow on a seven-play scoring drive.

A WINK AND A NOD
Most players would be extremely nervous in their first collegiate start, but ISU redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Winkler seemed cool as can be as he led the Redbirds to their first win of the season against Abilene Christian (Sept. 21). The 2011 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in the state of Illinois waited his turn last year, but took advantage of an opportunity and controlled the game against the Wildcats. The Frankfort, Ill., native completed 18-of-25 passes for 201 yards with a touchdown, as the Redbirds put up 366 yards of total offense. Winkler also rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries, including a long run of 15 yards. His lone touchdown pass came late in the second quarter, when he connected from 19 yards out to former backup quarterback turned receiver Cameron Meredith.

HERE COMES THE BOOM
It has taken a while for David "Boom" Perkins to get settled at Illinois State, after transferring from Ohio State in the offseason. However, after a lot of work on the field and in the film room, Perkins exploded onto the scene in the team's win over Abilene Christian (Sept. 21) and showed he can bring the boom to opposing quarterbacks. Perkins combined with Bradon Prate for a sack in the third quarter, marking the first of his career at ISU, and added two more in the fourth quarter and finished with a career-high six tackles, including four solo stops, and two and a half sacks.

ONE LAST CHANCE
Late in the second quarter against Abilene Christian (Sept. 21), ISU head coach Brock Spack called time out in order to give his team one last chance to take a shot at the end zone and add some points to the scoreboard. Forced to punt, Abilene Christian kicked the ball away to true freshman Anthony Warrum with 17 seconds remaining. Instead of settling for good field position and throwing a Hail Mary shot into the end zone, Warrum took matters into his own hands and returned the punt 62 yards for a touchdown. It marked the first punt return for a touchdown by a Redbird player since Tom Nelson brought one back 82 yards in 2008.

DEJA VU
In 2009, the Redbirds played the Panthers in the annual Mid-America Classic in Charleston and starter Drew Kiel suffered an injury, which forced then redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Brown into action. Brown went on to have a record-setting career at ISU and started every game for the next four seasons. A similar situation played out in the 2013 contest, when starter Jared Barnett left the game due to injury and redshirt freshman Blake Winkler came in to throw for 144 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Whether or not Winkler has a career like Brown is yet to be seen, but the start was eerily similar.

ALL OR NOTHING
Throughout his career at Illinois State, head coach Brock Spack has shown that he is never afraid to go for it on fourth down and keep a drive alive. Early in the 2013 season, he's shown that he is not afraid to make that call at all and his team has made him look very smart by converting on 6-of-7 fourth-down conversion attempts this season. Against Eastern Illinois (Sept. 14), the Redbirds were 3-for-3 on fourth down and picked up a pair of conversions on its touchdown drive in its first of two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. The Redbirds also scored on fourth down, when Collin Keoshian broke out for a 10-yard touchdown run on a 4th -and-1 play early in the game against Abilene Christian (Sept. 21).

SMOOTH TRANSITION
Many times in college football a player will move from one position to another to see more playing time and help his team get better. Junior Cameron Meredith made the transition from the Redbirds' backup quarterback for the past two seasons to wide receiver in the offseason. He looked very impressive during spring and fall workouts, but showed off his new skills against Eastern Illinois (Sept. 14). The Westchester, Ill., native led the team with five receptions for 76 yards and caught his first two career touchdown receptions against the Panthers. Meredith hauled in a five-yard touchdown on a fade route in the end zone early in the third quarter and later added another five-yard score from quarterback Blake Winkler with just over two minutes left in the game.