No. 12 Redbirds Travel to Dakota Dome for First Time To Face USD
Mike Zimmer
Mike Zimmer

 No. 12 Illinois State (4-0, 1-0 MVFC) at South Dakota (1-2, 0-0 MVFC)
 Date  Saturday, Sept. 29
 Location
 Vermillion, S.D.
 Kickoff
 2 p.m. CT
 Stadium
 Dakota Dome
 Stadium Capacity
 10,000
 Radio  WJCB/Country Financial Illinois State Radio Network (Dick Luedke - Play-by-Play | Ted Schmitz - Analyst)
 Live Stats  Gametracker
 Redbirds on Storify  Latest Update
 Game Notes  Illinois State | South Dakota | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Senior middle linebacker Mike Zimmer led the way for a dominating Redbird defense against Western Illinois in a 23-3 victory last weekend. The Wheeling, Ill., native recorded 13 tackles, added a sack and finished with 1.5 tackles-for-loss against the Leathernecks. It marked the second-straight game with double-digit tackles for Zimmer, who had a career-high 15 the week prior against Eastern Illinois. Zimmer now leads the Redbirds with 36 total tackles, three sacks and 3.5 TFLs in 2012.

THE GAME
Off to its first 4-0 start since 1967, the Illinois State Redbirds will look to pick up their second Missouri Valley Football Conference road win of the season at the Dakota Dome against the newest member of the league, the South Dakota Coyotes.

THE SERIES
Illinois State and South Dakota have met only one other time on the gridiron. The Redbirds defeated the then No. 14-ranked Coyotes by a score of 28-3 on Homecoming. ISU scored 21 unanswered points and limited the Coyotes to just three yards rushing and 10 yards total in the second half.

The Last Meeting
South Dakota3
Illinois State28
October 15, 2011
Normal, Ill.
Defense Stifles No. 14 Coyotes in 28-3 Homecoming Victory
Illinois State linebacker Evan Frierson recorded a team-high eight tackles, four tackles-for-loss and three sacks to lead the Redbird defense in a 28-3 Homecoming victory over No. 14 South Dakota in front of 10,014 at Hancock Stadium.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (23-14). In his three seasons at the helm of the program, the Redbirds have amassed a 16-3 record at home and put together three-straight winning seasons for the first time since 1998-2000.

South Dakota: Joe Glenn (South Dakota, 1975) is in his first season as the head coach at his alma mater (1-2) and his 25th as a collegiate head coach (189-102-1). He previously served as the head coach at Northern Colorado and Montana, where led his teams to 14 consecutive winning seasons, as well as serving as head coach at Wyoming for six years.

THE PROGRAM

  • Illinois State was home to the Missouri Valley Football Conference's Defensive Player of the Year each season from 2002-06.
  • The Redbirds had at least one player selected in the NFL Draft each year from 2005-07.
  • Illinois State was the most improved team in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a multi-year rate APR of 943 following the 2010-11 academic year.
  • In each of the past six years, ISU student-athletes have contributed more than 2,000 hours of community service to the Bloomington-Normal area, including a school-record 3,500 hours in 2011-12.
  • Redbird student-athletes matched a record with a department-wide 3.15 grade-point average during the fall 2011 semester and spring of 2012, while posting a 3.0 mark in six of the last seven semesters.

THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • The University of South Dakota is located in Vermillion, S.D., and has an enrollment of 10,151 students. The Coyotes are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at the Dakota Dome (10,000).
  • The Coyotes return 13 starters and 33 letterwinners from last year's team that finished with a 6-5 overall record and a 2-2 mark (T-2nd) in their final year of Great West Conference play.
  • USD is off to a 1-2 start in 2012, with a 31-21 win over Colgate in its home opener Sept. 8.
  • Last week, the Coyotes took on a Big Ten foe for the third consecutive year and fell to Northwestern by a score of 38-7 in Evanston, Ill. With the defeat, South Dakota fell to 2-26 all-time against the conference.
  • South Dakota got on the scoreboard with a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Josh Vander Maten in the third quarter. Vander Maten finished 17-of-33 for 189 yards passing and accounted for 38 of the Coyotes' 51 yards rushing against the Wildcats. On the season, he's rushed for 4.4 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on the ground, while throwing for two more in the air.
  • Linebacker Tyler Starr leads the way for the USD offense, coming off a breakout year in 2011 that saw him register 14 sacks. This season, he's recorded 23 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss from his linebacker position.

TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • ISU head coach Brock Spack and USD head coach Joe Glenn each spent time on the coaching staff at Wyoming. Spack was an assistant coach for the Cowboys from 1995-96 and Glenn was the head coach from 2003-08.
  • ISU defensive back Erik Ottosen and South Dakota's Nick Meyer were high school teammates at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, Ill.
  • Redbird cornerback Mike Banks and South Dakota's Sidney Bazemore were high school teammates at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.
  • Illinois State backup linebacker Patrick Dougherty and South Dakota's Kyle Guzieo were high school teammates at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill.
  • Illinois State offensive lineman Mark Spelman and South Dakota's Taylor Moore were high school teammates at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wis.

45 YEARS IS A LONG TIME TO WAIT
It had been 45 years since an Illinois State football team started its season with perfect 4-0 record, but that changed last weekend when the Redbirds faced off against longtime in-state rival Western Illinois in Macomb. With their 23-3 defeat over the Leathernecks, the Redbirds improved to 4-0 in 2012 to break the 45 year drought and more importantly move to the top of the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings. ISU is hoping for similar success this season as it had in 1967, when the 'Birds started 6-0 and finished 8-2 under head coach Larry Bitcon.

#DUNNGETTINITDONE
Darrelynn Dunn has embraced his role as the starting running back and has put up a trio of impressive performances in the first three games for the Redbirds. Dunn had a career day in the 56-14 season-opening win over the Dayton Flyers (Sept. 1), when he set career-highs in carries (25), yards (127) and touchdowns (3) against the Flyers to pace a Redbird rushing attack that amassed 318 yards on the ground on the day. The Bloomington, Ill., native followed that up by rushing for a career-high 129 yards against Eastern Michigan (Sept. 8), and he scored two more touchdowns. After a tough game against Eastern Illinois (Sept. 15), Dunn rebounded with 114 yards and two more rushing touchdowns in the 23-3 victory at Western Illinois (Sept. 22). Overall, Dunn leads the team with 426 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

TROUBLE IN MACOMB
Heading into its game against Western Illinois (Sept. 22), Illinois State had not won in Macomb, Ill., since 2006 and only twice at Hanson Field since 1994. The Redbirds put an end to those struggles with a 23-3 victory over the Leathernecks and have now defeated them three out of the last four years. ISU has also now won back-to-back games over WIU for the first time since 1999 and 2000.

BROWN NEARING MULTIPLE RECORDS
With his 210 yards passing at Western Illinois (Sept. 22), Illinois State senior quarterback Matt Brown tied the ISU all-time record for passing yards in a career. He is tied with Kevin Glenn with 8,251 and needs just one yard this weekend to set the new school standard. Brown also needs just 10 pass attempts and two touchdown passes to take over the career marks in those categories, adding to his own school records of 749 completions and 64.8 completion percentage in four years under center for the Redbirds.

WALKER MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Not to be outdone, Tyrone Walker is also approaching some serious career milestones at Illinois State as well. The Indianapolis, Ind., native needs seven receptions to take over the top spot on the ISU all-time list from current Jacksonville Jaguar Laurént Robinson (192). Walker also trails Robinson (29) in career touchdown receptions with 24 and is just 139 yards away from taking over second place on the career receiving yardage list.

AIR JORDAN
ISU quarterback Matt Brown has a lot of weapons to work with on offense, but he suprised nearly everyone in attendance in Macomb, Ill., when he connected with fullback Jordan Neukirch for a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter to ice the 23-3 victory over the Leathernecks (Sept. 22). The catch was the first of the season for the pre-season All-American, who is known more for his lead blocking skills than his pass-catching abilities. The touchdown was also the first of Neukirch's three-year career at ISU and just his ninth catch overall.

RACKING UP TACKLES
With his 13 tackles in a 23-3 win over Western Illinois (Sept. 22), ISU middle linebacker Mike Zimmer posted his second-straight double-digit tackling effort of the season. Zimmer became the first Redbird to post back-to-back double-digit tackling efforts this season, after he set a career-best with 15 stops in the double-overtime win against Eastern Illinois (Sept. 15). Zimmer now leads the Redbirds with 36 stops on the season, with three sacks ad 3.5 tackles-for-loss.

TOUGH TO DO IN THE VALLEY
By holding Western Illinois to just three points in their 23-3 victory (Sept. 22), it marked the first time that Illinois State held a Missouri Valley Football Conference opponent without a touchdown since Oct. 4, 2008, when the Redbirds allowed just a pair of field goals to Indiana State in a 57-6 victory. WIU struggled on offense all day, with just 137 yards of total offense which included only 55 through the air. The Leathernecks also mustered just 11 first downs and turned the ball over three times.

INTERCEPTIONS GALORE
In 2011, the Illinois State defense recorded just three interceptions in 11 games played. The Redbirds matched that total three weeks ago in a victory at Eastern Michigan (Sept. 8) and recorded their second-straight game with a trio of interceptions in the 54-51 double-overtime victory over Eastern Illinois (Sept. 15). Alex Donnelly, Mike Banks and Ezra Thompson each recorded their first interceptions of the season and Donnelly returned his 30 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to put the Redbirds 7-0 early. Ben Ericksen added another against Western Illinois (Sept. 22), which ups his total to three this season and increased the team total to seven in 2012.

BIRDS FLYING HIGH IN POLLS
The Illinois State football team has set up shop in the national polls recently and has little plans of moving out. After heading into the season ranked in both The Sports Network and FCS Coaches Polls in 2012, ISU was ranked No. 12 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 13 in The Sports Network Top 25 Poll following its 23-3 road victory at Western Illinois (Sept. 22). The Redbirds have now been ranked for 11-straight weeks dating back to last season.

MAKE THAT THREE
It took nearly four hours and two overtime periods, but Illinois State kept its 2012 record perfect and moved to 3-0 with its 54-51 double overtime victory over Eastern Illinois (Sept. 15). It marked the first time since 1991 that the Redbirds have started 3-0, when the team beat St. Francis (19-17), Akron (25-3) and Southeast Missouri State (42-7) and eventually finished with a 5-6 overall record.

ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS
The 111-year rivalry between Illinois State and Eastern Illinois has produced many memorable moments, but it's doubtful that what happened in the 2012 meeting won't be at the top of the charts for years to come. The Redbirds and the Panthers scored a combined 105 points and needed two overtime periods to decide the 101st game in the fifth-longest series in FCS football. The 105 points scored are the most combined in the series history and each team set a new single game high in points scored.

AERIAL ATTACK
Last season, Matt Brown finished with over 2,000 yards passing for the third-consecutive season but did not record a game with over 300 yards passing. Brown certainly put that behind him and shattered the record books in Illinois State's 54-51 double overtime victory over Eastern Illinois (Sept. 15). The Marion, Ill., native set Illinois State single-game records for completions (42) and passing yards (473) and he tied a career high with five touchdown passes, including the 25-yard game winner to Tyrone Walker in the second overtime period. Brown also rushed for two touchdowns in the victory, making him responsible for seven total touchdowns in the game. His 42 completions also set a new Missouri Valley Football Conference single-game record and his 473 yards passing marked the third-highest highest single-game total in league history.