The game will be the first between the two schools in history.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Senior running back Ashton Leggett set a new career-high with 178 yards rushing on 23 carries, including a career-long touchdown run of 75 yards in the fourth quarter, and also scored on a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help the Redbirds beat Missouri State 38-13 last Saturday in Springfield, Mo. With his 178 yards rushing, Leggett registered his third 100-plus yard rushing performance of the season and upped his total at ISU to five in the last two seasons.
Coming off a 38-13 win on the road last weekend at Missouri State, Illinois State (3-3, 2-2 MVFC) will return home to host non-conference foe South Dakota (4-2, 1-0 GWC) on Homecoming 2011 at Hancock Stadium and will look to stay undefeated at home this season.
The Redbirds and the Coyotes will be playing for the first time in the history of both programs. However, when South Dakota joins the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2012, the two teams will meet regularly in the upcoming seasons.
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his third season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (15-13). With ISU's 27-23 win over Eastern Illinois in the 2010 season finale, the Redbird coaching staff led by head coach Spack became the first staff at ISU to post back-to-back winning seasons in its first two seasons at the helm in over 60 years.
Head Coach Brock Spack | ISU Coaching Staff
South Dakota: Ed Meierkort (Dakota Wesleyan, 1982) is in his eighth season at the helm of the South Dakota program (52-32) and has an overall career record of 107-87. One of the most successful head coaches in Coyote football history, South Dakota has posted one of its most successful stretches in school history by setting or tying more than 100 school records during Meierkort's tenure.
- 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.
- In each of the past five 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 2009-10.
- Redbird student-athletes matched a record with a department-wide 3.13 grade-point average during the fall 2009 semester, 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 Great West Conference and play their home games at the DakotaDome (10,000).
- The Coyotes return 53 letterwinners and 21 starters from last year's team that finished with a 4-7 overall record and a 1-3 mark (4th) in Great West Conference play.
- After a thrilling 24-19 win over then-No. 22 Southern Utah last Saturday in the DakotaDome, South Dakota football moved up to 14th in the latest FCS Coaches' Poll released Monday. The Coyotes now have been ranked in the poll for five-consecutive weeks, marking the longest streak and highest ranking since transitioning to Division I FCS play.
- Junior running back Marcus Sims and senior linebacker Adam Broders were named Great West Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively, after their performances in the Coyotes' 24-19 win over No. 22 Southern Utah. Sims, had a career-high 153 yards on the ground on 25 carries to lead the team and Broders tallied a career-high 17, including a sack and two tackles-for-loss.
- USD senior quarterback Dante Warren was 14-of-18 passing for 186 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns in the team's win over No. 22 Southern Utah. A true dual-threat, Warren leads the way on the season for the Coyotes on offense with 823 passing yards and six touchdown throws and has added 270 yards and five scores on the ground.
- Broders is the leader of the Coyote defense with 54 tackles through six games and has added three sacks and five tackles-for-loss. Sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Starr has also been a force up front, with a team-leading 10 sacks and 14 TFLs to go along with 31 tackles.
TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT
- ISU reserve defensive back Erik Ottosen and South Dakota's Nick Meyer were high school teammates at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, Ill.
- Redbird freshman 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's Cliffton Gordon and Josh Howe and South Dakota's Cody O'Neill were high school teammates at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill.
- ISU's Steve Nelson (Hersey) and South Dakota's Dante Warren (St. Viator) and Colin Buscarini (Rolling Meadows) are all from Arlington Heights, Ill., although they went to different high schools.
Homecoming is always a fun time for Illinois State alumni and supporters to gather and cheer for the Redbirds. As of late, Redbird fans coming back to campus have had a lot to celebrate with wins in four of the team's last five Homecoming contests. ISU has won its last two games under head coach Brock Spack and will be looking for its sixth-straight win at Hancock Stadium overall. However, the Redbirds are just 6-9 all-time against ranked opponents on Homecoming and will have a tough test against the No. 14 Coyotes this year.
HOME SWEET HOME
Hancock Stadium has been kind to the Redbirds over the past three seasons and Redbird fans have been treated to high-scoring games and a lot of wins. Under head coach Brock Spack, the Redbirds have posted an 11-2 record at Hancock Stadium, including a 2-0 record at home so far in 2011 after a 20-13 win over South Dakota State in the conference home opener (Sept. 24). Spack has also won all of his home openers in three seasons with the Redbirds and has not lost at home to a non-conference opponent.
LIKE RUNNING INTO A BRICK WALL
Opponents have found it very difficult to get anything going in the running game against the Redbird defense through the first six games of the season. For the fourth time this season, the Redbirds held their opponent to less than 100 yards rushing when they limited Missouri State to 37 yards on the ground (Oct. 8). ISU is now allowing opponents to rush just 68.5 yards per game, which ranks No. 3 in FCS football.
The road has not been kind to Illinois State over the past three years, but the Redbirds have adopted the new mantra of being road warriors and it looks promising. Illinois State picked up its first road win in four tries this season and snapped a six-game losing streak overall with its 38-13 win at Missouri State (Oct. 8). The last road win prior to the Redbirds' victory against the Bears came against No. 14 South Dakota State Sept. 18, 2010.
Senior running back Ashton Leggett has been the most consistent player for the Redbirds through the first six games of the season. Leggett is currently averaging 113.5 yards per game for the Redbirds and currently ranks third in the MVFC and 12th in FCS football with that average. The Muskegon, Mich., native set a new career-high with 178 yards rushing on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a career-long touchdown run of 75 yards in the fourth quarter, to help the Redbirds beat Missouri State (Oct. 8). With the 178 yards rushing, Leggett recorded his third 100-plus yard rushing performance this season and the fifth time in his ISU career.
LEADING THE WAY
The Illinois State senior-laden offensive line has been leading the way for Ashton Leggett all season long and one important part of that unit is left guard Nick Bledsoe. The Wheeling, Ill., native graded out at over 90 percent and helped Illinois State rack up 316 rushing yards in a win at Missouri State (Oct. 8) and for his efforts, Bledsoe was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week. Bledsoe was also credited with seven knockdowns against the Bears and led the way for Ashton Leggett, who rushed for a career-high 178 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Although his tackle numbers may not put him among the league's leaders, ISU senior defensive tackle Eric Brunner is making his case as one of the best overall defenders in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Greendale, Wis., native tied a career high with two sacks and finished with three tackles-for-loss in the team's win at Missouri State (Oct. 8). It marked Brunner's second multiple-sack game of the season and his third-career game with two sacks. Brunner also tallied his second game of the year with three or more tackles-for-loss, and he finished the game with six total tackles to lead the Redbird defense, which allowed just 37 yards rushing to the Bears.
After falling behind 13-3 at the half, the Redbirds scored 35 un-answered points to come away with a 38-13 victory against Missouri State (Oct. 8). Illinois State shut out the Bears through the last three quarters and out-scored MSU 28-0 in the fourth quarter to tie a program record for points scored in the final quarter. The Redbirds also limited the Bears to just 45 total yards over the final three quarters of play and limited the Bears to -4 rushing yards in the second half.
SETTING UP SCORES
Freshman Donovan Harden was instrumental in helping the Redbirds score 28 points in the fourth quarter at Missouri State (Oct. 8), but not with his talent on offense. The Rialto, Calif., native amassed 83 yards on five punt returns against the Bears, including a game-best 45-yard return to the Bears' four-yard line that set up an Ashton Leggett four-yard touchdown run. Four of Harden's five punt returns in the game set up Illinois State scoring drives and he also returned one kickoff 27 yards and caught a pass for seven yards.
After a rough first quarter that saw him get beat on two long touchdown passes against Missouri State (Oct. 8), ISU freshman cornerback Mike Banks could have hung his head and stayed on the bench for the rest of the game. However, when he was given the opportunity to come back into the game he responded with three tackles and recorded his first career interception when he picked off Trevor Wooden late in the fourth quarter. The interception was the first for a member of the Redbird secondary and just the second of the season overall for the Redbird defense, which recorded 13 interceptions in 2010.
ALL HE DOES IS CATCH TOUCHDOWNS
Junior transfer wide receiver Milton Colbert came to Illinois State to make an impact in the passing game for the Redbirds and that is exactly what he's done in the last two games. Late in the quarter against No. 5 North Dakota State (Oct. 1), ISU quarter back Matt Brown was forced out of the pocket, scrambled away from would be tackles and heaved a 43-yard bomb to the endzone which fell into the hands of Colbert. Nearly the same thing happened at Missouri State (Oct. 8), when Brown again was forced to elude pressure and scrambled long enough for Colbert to get wide open in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown catch. That equals a total of two catches for two touchdowns for Colbert this season.
A NICE CHANGE OF PACE
ISU senior running back Ashton Leggett was very busy against Missouri State (Oct. 8) and after he scored on a 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, fellow senior Cliffton Gordon was broght in to give him a breather and change things up. Gordon responded with a career-long 50-yard run to the MSU 20-yard line and later carried it in from three yards out to score the final touchdown of the game for the Redbirds and cap off a strong day on the ground.
RANKED FOE WOES
With Illinois State's loss at No. 5 North Dakota State (Oct. 5), the Redbirds fell to 29-71-1 all-time against ranked Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponents. The 'Birds picked up a pair of wins over ranked adversaries in 2010 with wins at No. 20 South Dakota State and at home against No. 14 NDSU, marking the first time the team had knocked off two ranked opponents in the same season since 2006. With four ranked teams still left on the schedule for the Redbirds in 2011, those numbers could improve a bit.
GET OFF THE BUS RUNNING
To steal a saying from Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, the Redbirds had it in their game plan to get off the bus running at Missouri State (Oct. 8) and that plan certainly paid off. ISU rushed for a season-high 314 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns against the Bears. That mark was the highest for the Redbirds since they ran for 351 yards against Missouri State Oct. 18, 2008, at Hancock Stadium. ISU is now averaging 186 yards per game on the ground in 2011, a vast improvement from the team's average of 131 yards on the ground in 2010.
When Nate Palmer came to Illinois State in the offseason, he did so with the intention of helping aid the Redbird pass rush. Based on his production through the first six games, one would say he is succeeding in that mission. The Illinois transfer has recorded at least a half of a sack in every game this season and leads the Redbirds with five sacks overall. He has also recorded 26 tackles on the year and has a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
THE IMPENATRABLE FORCE
The Illinois State offensive line was talked about all offseason as a potential area of strength for the Redbirds and after its performance through the first six games, one could see why. The offensive line unit of Cody White, Nick Bledsoe, Cal McCarthy, Keenan Wimbley and Milton Owens led the way for a rushing attack that recorded a season-high 314 yards and three touchdowns on the ground at Missouri State (Oct. 8). The unit has also kept quarterback Matt Brown upright in the six contests and has only surrendered three sacks on the season, which ranks fourth overall in the FCS.