Redbirds Welcome In Nationally Ranked Sycamores
Evan Frierson
Evan Frierson

 #16/17 Indiana State (5-2, 3-1 MVFC) at Illinois State (4-3, 2-2 MVFC) | Normal, Ill.
 Date  Saturday, Oct.22
 Location
 Normal, Ill.
 Kickoff
 1:00 p.m. CT
 Stadium
 Hancock Stadium
 Stadium Capacity
 9,500
 Radio  WJBC 1230 AM, FM 93.7 (Dick Luedke - Play-by-Play | Ted Schmitz - Analyst)
 Live Stats  GameTracker
 Game Notes  Illinois State | Indiana State | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Junior linebacker Evan Frierson led the way for the Redbird defense that allowed #14 South Dakota just 108 yards of total offense in the team's 28-3 win last Saturday. The Washington, D.C., native set new career highs with three sacks and four tackles-for-loss against the Coyotes and finished the game with a team-leading eight tackles, including seven solo stops and was named the MVFC Newcomer of the Week.

THE GAME
After a dominant 28-3 win over No. 14 South Dakota last weekend on Homecoming, Illinois State (4-3, 2-2 MVFC) will look to knock off its second-straight ranked opponent this weekend when No. 16/17 Indiana State (5-2, 3-1 MVFC) comes to Hancock Stadium for a pivotal Missouri Valley Football Conference match up.

THE SERIES
Illinois State leads the all-time series against Indiana State 31-29-2. The Redbirds have won 11 out of the last 13 meetings against the Sycamores, but will be trying to rebound after a 59-24 loss to the Sycamores in Terre Haute, Ind., last season.

Last Meeting
Illinois State
24
Indiana State
59
October 9, 2010
Terre Haute, Indiana
Redbird Football Falls to Sycamores, 59-24
Sophomore Tyrone Walker's two touchdown receptions were a career-best for the wide receiver, but it was not enough as the Illinois State football team (3-3, 2-2 MVFC) fell to Missouri Valley Football Conference rival Indiana State (3-2, 1-1 MVFC), 59-24, Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Ind.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his third season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (16-13). 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

Indiana State: Trent Miles (Indiana State, 1987) is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Indiana State Sycamores (12-29). Under Miles' leadership, the Sycamores enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2010 with a 6-5 record, a third place finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the program's first winning campaign since 1996, which earned Miles the Missouri Valley Football Conference's Coach Of The Year Award.

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.
  • 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

  • Indiana State University is located in Terre Haute, Ind., and has an enrollment of 11,494 students. The Sycamores are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at the Memorial Stadium (12,464).
  • The Sycamores return 54 letterwinners and 19 starters from last year's team that finished with a 6-5 overall record and a 4-4 mark (T-3rd) in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
  • No. 21 Indiana State had six touchdown plays of 30 yards or more to storm past the Western Illinois Leathernecks, 46-24, last weekend at home to improve their record to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
  • After the team's win over Western Illinois last wekeend, Indiana State jumped up five spots to No. 16 this week in the FCS Coaches Top 25 Poll, their highest national ranking of the season to this point. , The Sycamores also moved up four spots from last week in The Sports Network / Fathead.com Top 25 poll, sitting at No. 17.
  • Indiana State sophomore tailback Shakir Bell and junior defensive end Ben Obaseki were named this week's Missouri Valley Football Conference's Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively, after their strong performances in the win over Western Illinois. Bell racked up 213 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries against WIU and Obaseki had 22 tackles (seven solo, 15 assisted) with five tackles for loss and a trio of sacks against the Leathernecks. Obaseki was also named the National Defensive Player of the Week by The College Football Performance Awards and The Sports Network.

TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • Illinois State offensive coordinator Luke Huard was a member of the Washington coaching staff with Indiana State head coach Trent Miles. Huard spent two years on the Huskies' staff working with the quarterbacks in 2007-08, while Miles worked as the running backs coach from 2005-07.
  • Illinois State head coach Brock Spack and Indiana State assistant head coach Shannon Jackson both spent time as assistant coaches at Eastern Illinois. Spack coached at EIU from 1987-90, and Jackson coached at EIU from 2005-07.
  • Indiana State offensive coordinator Harold Etheridge was the offensive line coach at Illinois State from 1991-99 under head coaches Jim Heacock (1991-95) and Todd Berry (1996-99). Etheridge helped lead the Redbirds to back-to-back playoff appearances in 1998-99 and a conference title in 1999.
  • ISU defensive lineman Colton Underwood's brother, Connor, is a freshman linebacker at Indiana State. They were teammates at Washington Community High School in Washington, Ill.
  • Illinois State kicker Mike Wood and Indiana State's Justin Wood and Tanner Riley were high school teammates at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind.
  • Redbird wide receiver Marvon Sanders and Indiana State's Donald Spencer were high school teammates at Ypsilanti High School in Ypsilanti, Mich. Spencer, who transferred from Michigan State, was also teammate of ISU running back Ashton Leggett with the Spartans in 2009.
  • ISU freshman cornerback Mike Banks and Indiana State's Randy Berryhill were high school teammates at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.

SMILE, YOU'RE ON CAMERA!
Illinois State will have five of its 11 regular-season games distributed by national and regional television outlets, the most in the history of the program. With two broadcasts already in the books, the Redbirds will be back in the national spotlight when the Oct. 22 match up between the Redbirds and Indiana State at Hancock Stadium and the regular-season finale on Nov. 19 against Northern Iowa will be available on ESPN3.com, as part of an agreement with the Missouri Valley Football Conference. ISU's game Oct. 29 at Southern Illinois will also be televised on Comcast SportsNet Chicago at 2:30 p.m., with ISU and WMBD sports director Kurt Pegler and ISU Hall of Famer Boomer Grigsby on the call.

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 12-2 record at Hancock Stadium, including a 3-0 record at home so far in 2011 after a 28-3 win over No. 14 South Dakota on Homecoming (Oct. 15). 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 fifth time this season, the Redbirds held their opponent to less than 100 yards rushing when they limited No. 14 South Dakota to 83 yards on the ground (Oct. 15). ISU is now allowing opponents to rush just 70.57 yards per game, which ranks No. 3 in FCS football and leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

SECOND HALF HEROICS
For the second-straight week, Illinois State left its first-half inconsistencies behind and broke out in the second half on both sides of the football. The Redbirds scored 21 un-answered points and limited the No. 14 Coyotes to just three yards rushing and 10 yards total in the second half of the team's 28-3 win at Hancock Stadium (Oct. 15). The previous week, the Redbirds scored 35 un-answered points in the second half and limited Missouri State to -4 rushing yards in the second half.

LEADING BY A WIDE MARGIN
The turnover margin is an often debated stat in regards to its importance in football, however the Redbirds may argue that the sack margin has been the difference in their season to date. The Redbirds' mark of 26 sacks to three sacks allowed (+23) leads the FCS and is tied for the best margin in all of Division I football (FBS and FCS combined). Texas A&M has also registered 26 sacks and allowed three on the season -- the only other school in Division I to have such a large differential.

IT'S BEEN A WHILE
Not since 1984 has an Illinois State team held an opponent to under 100 yards of total offense in a game. However, the Redbirds nearly ended that streak when they held the No. 14 ranked Coyotes to just 108 yards of total offense in the team's 28-3 victory (Oct. 15). The 108 yards put up by the Coyotes were the fewest for a Redbird opponent since September 1, 1984, when the team allowed just 87 yards to Lincoln.

EVAN THE TERRIBLE
With the way junior transfer linebacker Evan Frierson has been tormenting opposing defenses this season, he may have earned himself a place among the league's most feared linebackers. The Washington, D.C., native led the way for the Redbird defense that allowed No. 14 South Dakota just 108 yards of total offense in the team's 28-3 win (Oct. 15). Frierson set new career highs with three sacks and four tackles-for-loss against the Coyotes and finished the game with a team-leading eight tackles, which earned him MVFC Newcomer of the Week honors. He currently leads the league in tackles-for-loss with 12 and is tied for 15th in FCS football in tackles-for-loss per game.

MR. DEPENDABLE
Senior running back Ashton Leggett has been the most consistent player for the Redbirds through the first seven games of the season. Leggett is currently averaging 114.6 yards per game for the Redbirds and ranks third in the MVFC and sixth in FCS football with that average. The Muskegon, Mich., native recorded his second-straight 100-plus yard rushing performance and his fourth multi-touchdown game of the season in Illinois State 28-3 win over No. 14 South Dakota (Oct. 15). Leggett native rushed for 122 yards on 22 carries and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to lead the Redbirds past the Coyotes on Homecoming.

THE IMPENETRABLE 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 seven games, one could see why. The offensive line unit of Cody White, Nick Bledsoe, Cal McCarthy, Keenan Wimbley and Milton Owens has led the way for a rushing attack that ranks 25th in the country with 192 yards per game . The unit has also kept quarterback Matt Brown upright in the seven contests and has only surrendered three sacks on the season, which ranks third overall in the FCS.

RANKED FOE WOES
With Illinois State's 28-3 victory over No. 14 South Dakota (Oct. 15), the Redbirds improved to 30-71-1 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 No. 16/17 Indiana State and No. 2 Northern Iowa still left on the schedule for the Redbirds in 2011, those numbers could improve a bit.

NEW YEAR, NEW RESULTS
One look at Illinois State's defensive stats from the 2010 season would show that the team struggled mightily on defense. However, when you look at those same numbers so far in 2011 the change is almost unbelievable. After finishing the 2010 season ranked 112th out of 117 teams in total defense, the 2011 Redbird defense under the leadership of head coach Brock Spack currently ranks 14th in the country in total defense. The 2010 squad also ranked 104th in rushing defense and has become the third-best team against the run in 2011. The main difference may be in getting pressure on the quarterback and tackles in the backfield, after the team ranked 105th and 108th in sacks and tackles-for-loss, respectively, last year and currently rank third in both categories this season.

NEWCOMER ATTACK
Transfers Evan Frierson and Nate Palmer have each made immediate impacts in their first seven games at Illinois State. The pair of Illinois transfers combined for 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three tackles-for-loss in their debut at the FCS level against Eastern Illinois (Sept. 1) and have not stopped since. Last weekand against No. 14 South Dakota, they teamed up to record 13 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss. Overall, the duo has combined for 75 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles-for-loss for the Redbirds.

NATE'S GREAT
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 seven 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 6.5 sacks overall. He has also recorded 31 tackles on the year, has forced a fumble and returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown.