The game will be broadcast live on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago at 2 p.m.
Oct. 2, 2013
PLAYER TO WATCH
Senior defensive end Colton Underwood recorded nine tackles and a TFL last Saturday at Missouri State. The Washington, Ill., native ranks second on the team with 24 tackles and four TFL. He has also added a sack and two pass breakups through four games for the Redbirds. Last season against the Leathernecks, Underwood had seven tackles, a sack and 1.5 TFL while helping the team to a 23-3 road victory on Homecoming in front of a whiteout crowd in Macomb, Ill.
Illinois State (1-3, 0-1 MVFC) will play the first of four games in five weeks at Hancock Stadium, when the Redbirds welcome longtime in-state foe Western Illinois (3-2, 1-0 MVFC) to campus for Homecoming 2013.
The Redbirds and the Leathernecks will meet for the 95th time Saturday, with WIU holding a 50-41-3 advantage in the all-time series. ISU has won two-straight games in the series, including a 23-3 victory over WIU in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener at Hanson Field last season. The Redbirds have also won two-straight games in the series against the Leathernecks at Hancock Stadium.
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fifth season as the head coach at Illinois State (29-21). 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.
Western Illinois: Bob Nielson (Wartburg, 1982) is in his first season as the head coach at Western Illinois (1-4). Nielson came to WIU from Minnesota-Duluth, where he owned a 100-26 record during his 10-year tenure as head coach and won the 2008 and 2010 NCAA Division II National Championships.
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
- Western Illinois University is located in Macomb, Ill., and has an enrollment of 12,205 students. The Fighting Leathernecks are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at Hanson Field (16,368).
- The Leathernecks finished the 2012 season with a 3-8 overall record and a 1-7 mark in MVFC play, which placed WIU in eighth place.
- WIU is off to a 3-2 start in 2013, with dominating wins over Hampton and Quincy in the non-conference portion of the schedule. The two losses were to FBS opponents on the road at Minnesota and UNLV.
- Western Illinois (+2.0) ranks third in the FCS in turnover margin behind national leader, Sacred Heart, at +2.8. The Fighting Leathernecks have forced a total of 13 turnovers through four games this season, with seven interceptions and six fumble recoveries. Western Illinois has recorded a takeaway in 14 of its last 16 games, and multiple takeaways on 10 occasions.
- Last Saturday, J.C. Baker and Nikko Watson combined for 200 rushing yards and the Leatherneck defense recorded another touchdown in a 24-10 defeat over South Dakota in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams.
- With the win over South Dakota last weekend, the Leathernecks have already tied their win total from last season.
- For their performances against the Coyotes, a pair of Leathernecks were honored by the MVFC. Sophomore Sean Sullivan was chosen as the MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week after helping WIU rush for 219 yards, and did not allow a sack in the contest. Likewise, Baker was named the league's Newcomer of the Week, after he recorded his third 100-yard rushing effort of the season.
- Defensively, the Leathernecks are led by senior Devon Butler and sophomore JJ Raffelson. Butler recorded a career-high 10 tackles in the win over USD and leads the team with 36 tackles on the year and Raffelson had a season-high 12 stops against the Coyotes.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS VS. WESTERN ILLINOIS
- Nov. 13, 1948 at Illinois State
The Redbird defense recorded five interceptions to record its second-straight shutout and secure a dominating 40-0 win over the Leathernecks. The win was the sixth in a row for ISU over WIU, the longest such streak in the history of the rivalry.
- Oct. 19, 1968 at Illinois State
An estimated 20,000 Redbird fans flocked to Hancock Stadium to watch ISU earned a 21-10 victory over its in-state rival WIU. Bruce Cullen rushed for 98 yards and scored all three touchdowns in the victory for the Redbirds.
- Sept. 7, 1985 at Illinois State
Paul Politi tied a then school record with four field goals for the Redbirds in an 18-6 victor over the Leathernecks in the first-ever game for ISU as a member of the newly-formed Gateway Conference (now Missouri Valley Football Conference).
- Oct. 21, 2006 at Western Illinois
Pierre Rembert rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to help the Redbirds rally from a 14-3 deficit and earn a 27-14 road victory over the Leathernecks. The win snapped a five-game losing streak to WIU.
- Nov. 11, 2009 at Illinois State
Placekicker Zach Kutch set a new school and conference record with six made field goals in a 25-7 victory for the Redbirds over the Leathernecks. The win was the first for ISU at Hancock Stadium against WIU since 1999.
The Last Meeting
September 22, 2012
THE LAST TIME THEY MET (SEPT. 22, 2012)
registered his third 100-plus yard rushing effort of the season and added two touchdowns, as No. 15 Illinois State rolled to a 23-3 victory over Western Illinois in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill. The ISU defense limited Western Illinois to only 137 yards of total offense, 55 of which came through the air. The Redbirds also forced two turnovers, including Ben Ericksen's
fourth interception of the season.
Illinois State alumni will flock back to Bloomington-Normal on Saturday for Homecoming 2013, to remember their fond times at the University and re-live their college experience. There is also a good chance they could see their beloved Redbirds earn a victory, as ISU has recorded a winning 46-41-6 record in Homecoming games all-time. Since 1998, the 'Birds are 10-5 in Homecoming contests and have picked up victories in five of the last seven contests overall.
Former Redbird defensive back Sam Young can be found atop several lists in the ISU record books for his outstanding play during his career at ISU. On Saturday, Young will add his name to another prestigious list when he is inducted into the Percy Family Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2013. Young was named the NCAA FCS Defensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-America selection by the Football Gazette in 1999 and led the league that year in passes broken up with 21. He ended his illustrious career at ISU as the all-time leader in passes broken up in a single game (6), single season (21) and career (46), before going on to play professionally in the NFL and CFL.
'BIRDS COME HOME
After playing three of its first four games away from home, Illinois State will begin a stretch of four games in five weeks at home when the Redbirds take on the Leathernecks Saturday. The Redbirds have enjoyed their home nest, posting an 18-6 record at Hancock Stadium in the last five seasons under head coach Brock Spack, including a 31-17 win over Abilene Christian in the 2013 home opener (Sept. 21).
Illinois State headed into the game at Missouri State with just two takeaways through the first three games of the season on defense. However, that number doubled in the game against the Bears as the Redbirds recorded a pair of turnovers. Tevin Allen got credit for both of them, when he registered his first-career interception early in the game, marking Illinois State's first interception of the season. Later in the half, Allen also recovered a fumble forced by Brandon Westphal, which led to an Illinois State score.
First-year Redbird punter CJ Laros has made an immediate impact for ISU and had a career day against Missouri State (Sept. 28). Laros finished with seven punts for 344 total yards, averaging a career-best 49.1 yards-per-punt. The Canberra, Australia, native tallied a career-long 63-yard punt in the first half, launched three balls more than 50 yards, dropped five punts inside the 20 yard line and pinned two punts inside the Missouri State 10 yard line. Laros transferred to Illinois State from Citrus College in California, and was raised playing soccer, rugby and cricket in Australia.
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 five games, Keoshian has been extremely valuable in short-yardage situations and has scored five touchdowns on the ground. Each of those touchdowns has been scored from 10 yards or less, with four from under three yards or less.
All-American defensive end Colton Underwood has garnered a lot of attention from opposing offenses and has struggle a bit out of the gate in 2013. However, he may have turned the tide of his season with a strong effort at Missouri State (Sept. 28). Underwood tallied nine tackles, including one tackle-for-loss against the Bears, including three solo tackles for the Redbirds. He currently ranks second on the team with 24 total tackles through four games, with one sack and four tackles-for-loss.
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.
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 (Sept. 21) and were 2-for-3 against Missouri State (Sept. 28), after a blocked field goal cost ISU a scoring chance. That upped the team's mark to 12-for-13 (92 percent) in the red zone this year, with nine touchdowns scored and two field goal conversions. ISU ranks second in the league in that category, just behind Indiana State who is 14-for-15 in red zone chances this season.
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 three of its four opening drives 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.