No. 14 Redbirds Set To Host No. 8 Penguins on ESPN3
The Redbirds will play a ranked opponent for the first time in 2012.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Junior defensive end Colton Underwood has been very difficult on opposing offenses this season. Underwood recorded 12 tackles and three TFLs last week against Southern Illinois and he ranks second on the team with 46 tackles, but leads the team with 5.5 sacks and 10 TFLs. He was also named the MVFC Defensive Player of the Week, after recording 13 tackles, three sacks and 3.5 TFL against Eastern Illinois (Sept. 15).
For the second-straight week, a pair of nationally-ranked teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference will square off, when No. 14 Illinois State (5-1, 2-1 MVFC) looks to rebound from a disappointing loss last week as it welcomes No. 8 Youngstown State (4-1, 1-1 MVFC) to Hancock Stadium.
The Last Meeting
September 17, 2011
Illinois State and Youngstown State will meet for the 22nd time on the gridiron Saturday. The Penguins hold a one-game advantage in the all-time series 11-10, after a 34-27 defeat of the Redbirds last season in Youngstown, Ohio. In all, 12 games in the series have been decided by seven points or less and ISU is 6-4 in games played at Hancock Stadium, with wins in the last two games played in Normal.
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (24-15). In his three seasons at the helm of the program, the Redbirds have amassed a 16-4 record at home and put together three-straight winning seasons for the first time since 1998-2000.
Youngstown State: Eric Wolford (Kansas State, 1994) is in his third season as the head coach at Youngstown State (13-14). The Penguins went 6-5 last season, including a 27-24 win over eventual national champion North Dakota State, and their four FCS losses were by a combined 17 points.
- 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
- Youngstown State University is located in Youngstown, Ohio, and has an enrollment of 15,194 students. The Penguins are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at Stambaugh Stadium (20,630).
- The Penguins return 17 starters and 40 letterwinners from last year's team that finished with a 6-5 overall record and a 4-4 mark (T-4th) in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
- YSU heads into the game ranked No. 8 in The Sports Network Top 25 Poll and ranked No. 9 in the FCS Coaches Poll, thanks to a strong 4-1 start to the season.
- Youngstown State committed three turnovers in the first half, which No. 1 North Dakota State turned into three touchdowns as the Bison went on to defeat the third-ranked Penguins, 48-7, last Saturday afternoon at the Fargodome. The loss was the first of the season for the Penguins, who previously defeated FBS foe Pittsburgh and nationally-ranked Northern Iowa to start the season.
- The Penguins are led on offense by a pair of players who are named 2012 Walter Payton Award Watch List, which is given to the outstanding offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Quarterback Kurt Hess and running back Jamaine Cook are represented on the list and both are off to strong starts in 2012.
- Hess has started all five games for YSU and has thrown for 882 yards and nine touchdowns for the Penguins. When he's not airing it out, he's typically handing the ball off to Cook, who leads the team with 485 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground.
- The YSU defense has also been stellar, limiting opponents to just under 25 points per game and just 115 yards per game on the ground. The defense features five players with over 20 tackles on the season, led by Jeremey Edwards with 26 tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss.
TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT
- Pete Cary (Cincinnati) is the only Redbird player from the state of Ohio on the roster. The Youngstown State roster does not feature a player from the state of Illinois at all.
- ISU offensive line coach George Barnett and Youngstown State head coach Eric Wolford and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo all spent time as coaches at Illinois. Barnett served as a graduate assistant coach for the offensive line in 2004, while Wolford was the run-game coordinator and offensive line coach during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
- ISU defensive line coach Spence Nowinsky and YSU special teams coordinator Louie Matsakis each spent time at Emporia State. Nowinsky was the associate head coach from 2007-08 and Matsakis was a placekicker and punter at Emporia State from 1995-98.
- Youngstown State Assistant Media Relations Director Jamie Hall worked as a graduate assistant in the Illinois State Athletics Media Relations Office in the mid-1990s. Hall received his master's degree from ISU in 1996.
- Current Illinois State graduate assistant D.J. Haurin is a Youngstown native.
WALKER TAKES THE TOP SPOT
In his four years with the Redbirds, senior wideout Tyrone Walker has put up some pretty impressive numbers. In the team's loss to Southern Illinois (Oct. 6), he became the ISU all-time receptions leader with his eight grabs against the Salukis. The Indianapolis, Ind., native now has 199 in his career, moving past current Jacksonville Jaguar Laurént Robinson (192) for the all-time lead in that category. Walker also moved into second place on the career receiving yards list with his 104 against SIU. He currently has 2,795 receiving yards in his illustrious career, trailing only Robinson (3,007). Walker also trails Robinson (29) in career touchdown receptions in second place with 24.
STRONG UP FRONT
Despite a tough loss, the Redbird defense played a strong game against Southern Illinois (Oct. 6), particularly on the defensive front. The ISU defense held the Salukis to just 182 yards of total offense and Redbird defensive linemen accounted for all three of the team's sacks and eight tackles-for-loss. Junior defensive end Colton Underwood led the way with 12 tackles and three TFLs, and senior end Nate Palmer tied career-bests with two sacks and three TFLs against SIU. Junior defensive tackle Shelby Harris rounded out the strong effort up front with seven tackles, a sack and two TFLs for the Redbirds.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE ISU
Senior quarterback Matt Brown has cemented his name atop several team and conference all-time performance lists in the past few weeks and he added to those achievements against Southern Illinois (Oct. 6). The Marion, Ill., native became Illinois State's career leader in total offense yards with 9,044, after recording 203 against the Salukis. Brown now holds ISU career records for passing attempts (1,226), completions (785), passing yards (8,803), passing touchdowns (62) and completion percentage (64.0). Brown is also the Missouri Valley Football Conference all-time leader in attempts and completions and is second in passing yards, just 286 behind Ryan Helming of UNI (9,089).
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. 14 in The Sports Network Top 25 Poll and No. 16 in the FCS Coaches Poll following its 17-0 loss to Southern Illinois (Oct. 6). The Redbirds have now been ranked for 13-straight weeks, dating back to last season and cracked the top-10 for the first time since 2007, with their No. 9 ranking on Oct. 1.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
In his four years as the starting quarterback for the Redbirds, senior Matt Brown has proven he can do just about anything on the football field behind center. With a strong performance against South Dakota (Sept. 29), Brown cemented his name atop most of Illinois State's career passing records. Brown passed for 336 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the win over the Coyotes. The Marion, Ill., native also tied Kevin Glenn for first on the career passing touchdowns list with 62, thanks to his 79-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Harden n the fourth quarter. For his efforts, Brown was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The friendly confines of Hancock Stadium have treated Illinois State extremely well over the past four seasons with head coach Brock Spack at the helm of the program. Despite a tough shutout loss to Southern Illinois last week (Oct. 6), the Redbirds have put together a 16-4 at Hancock Stadium under Spack and have won nine out of their last 11 games at home, dating back to 2010.
Illinois State needed a special effort on special teams against South Dakota (Sept. 29) to come away with a tough 34-31 road victory. The Redbirds blocked two punts, punted well and made two big field goals against the Coyotes. Safety Dontae McCoy blocked two punts in the second quarter, one of which led to a touchdown three plays later, to give him three punt blocks for the year. Punter Patrick Wright also had a great day, as he averaged 41 yards per punt and pinned the Coyotes inside their own 20-yard line four times. Capping off the special effort was kicker Nick Aussieker, who made a pair of field goals, including a career-long 42 yarder in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the game.
AIRING IT OUT
Redbird quarterback Matt Brown posted his second game with over 300 yards passing this season, with his 336 yards against the South Dakota (Sept. 29). Most of those yards fell into the hands of Donovan Harden and Tyrone Walker, who each had over 100 yards receiving in the Redbird victory. Harden led all receivers with a career-high 139 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown pass from Brown in the fourth quarter that gave the Redbirds the lead for good. Walker had five catches for 110 yards, marking his 11th career game with over 100 yards receiving at Illinois State. Harden and Walker became the second Redbird receiving duo to each record 100 yards in the same game this season, matching the effort of Walker and Lechein Neblett against Eastern Illinois.
With the team's 34-31 road victory at South Dakota, ISU head coach Brock Spack recorded his 24th victory with the Redbirds and moved into a tie with Todd Berry for eighth place on the Illinois State career wins list. Spack is 24-14 (.631) as the Redbirds' mentor and could potentially move past Gerry Hart (26) with more wins down the stretch. Berry finished his four-year career with a 24-24 overall record, which included a 19-7 record over his final two seasons.
REDBIRDS ON A ROLL
Off to its first 5-1 record since 1967, the Illinois State football team has been on a hot streak of late and is in the midst of the most successful run in school history. Dating back to last season, the Redbirds have won 10 out of their last 12 games, marking the best run over a 12-game span in the history of the Redbird football program. ISU won five straight from Oct. 8 to Nov. 5 in 2011, before dropping the season finale in double overtime to Northern Iowa to snap the win streak. Add in the five-straight wins to open 2012, and the Redbirds have been on quite a roll.
RACKING UP TACKLES
With his 13 tackles in a 34-31 win over South Dakota (Sept. 29), ISU middle linebacker Mike Zimmer posted his third-straight double-digit tackling effort of the season. Zimmer became the first Redbird to post a double-digit tackling efforts on the 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 56 stops on the season, with 3.5 sacks and four tackles-for-loss.
Darrelynn Dunn has embraced his role as the starting running back and has put up a four impressive performances in the first five 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). He capped off the run with 107 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground at South Dakota (Sept. 29). Overall, Dunn leads the team with 533 yards and nine touchdowns on the season.