The Redbirds will look to win their first game in Cedar Falls since 2002.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Junior defensive end Colton Underwood has been a force on the Illinois State defensive line all season. The Washington, Ill., native recorded a career-high 15 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss last week against Missouri State. He currently leads the conference in sacks and tackles for loss and ranks No. 2 in the country in tackles for loss per game and No. 8 in sacks per game.
No. 17 Illinois State (6-2, 3-2 MVFC) will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss last week to Missouri State, as it hits the road for the first of two-straight contests away from home. The first stop on the road trip will be to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to face Northern Iowa (2-5, 1-3 MVFC) at the always-difficult UNI Dome.
The Last Meeting
November 19, 2011
Illinois State and Missouri State will meet for the 29th time on the gridiron Saturday. The Panthers have won five out of the last six games overall in the series, including a 23-20 double-overtime defeat of the Redbirds in the series finale last year. ISU has not had success in the UNI Dome, winning just two of 13 games played at the facility.
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (25-16). In his four seasons at the helm of the program, the Redbirds have put together four-straight winning seasons for the first time since the late 1940's.
Northern Iowa: Mark Farley (Northern Iowa, 1986) is in his 12th season at the helm of the UNI sideline (101-45). Farley has led his alma mater to seven trips to the NCAA FCS playoffs and compiled a record of 61-23 in MVFC play, which ranks him No. 1 on the all-time league wins chart.
- 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 Northern Iowa is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and has an enrollment of 13,168 students. The Panthers are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at the UNI Dome (16,324).
- The Panthers return 12 starters from last year's team that finished with a 10-3 overall record and a 7-1 mark (T-1st) in Missouri Valley Football Conference play. The Panthers went on to represent the league in the FCS Playoffs for 16th time in school history.
- UNI (2-5, 1-3 MVFC) picked up its first Missouri Valley Football Conference win of the season last Saturday, when the Panthers defeated No. 20 South Dakota State, 27-6, in front of a homecoming crowd of 13,067.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen finished the game with 187 yards, going 13-for-21 passing to lead the Panthers to just their second win of the season. David Johnson led the team on the ground with 121 yards and one touchdown, while Brett LeMaster finished with 58 yards in the air and a touchdown.
- Kollmorgen was recently added to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List, which honors the national freshman of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision. Kollmorgen has thrown for 1,725 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, with just three interceptions, and ranks second in the league behind Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown in passing yards, completions and touchdowns.
- The Panthers defense is led by senior defensive back Wilmot Wellington. He leads a balanced defensive attack with 61 total tackles and has added a half tackle for loss, two pass breakups and an interception on the season.
TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT
- ISU head coach Brock Spack, and UNI recruiting coordinator Jeremiah Johnson both have coaching experience at Wyoming. Spack served as assistant coach for the Cowboys from 1995-96, while Johnson was a graduate assistant video coordinator during the 2002 season.
- UNI head coach Mark Farley lettered at Northern Iowa from 1983-86 and was a three-year starter at linebacker. As a player, Farley and the Panthers were 2-0 against Illinois State and as a head coach, Farley is 7-4 against the Redbirds.
- Illinois State's Assistant Athletics Director for Facilities and Operations Peyton Deterding graduated from Northern Iowa in 1998.
- ISU Assistant Athletics Director for Development, Matt Lyons, served as the Director of the Panther Scholarship Club at Northern Iowa during the 2010-11 school year. Lyons earned his master's degree in kinesiology and recreation at Illinois State in 2010, before taking the full time job at UNI.
- Darrelynn Dunn and Tim Dawson and Northern Iowa's Casey DeHoedt, Wilmot Wellington and Zach Kerndt were teammates at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
- Redbird defensive lineman Teddy Corwin and Northern Iowa's quarterback Stephen Kaiser were teammates at DeSmet Jesuit High School in suburban St. Louis.
BROWN TAKES THE TOP SPOT
Illinois State senior quarterback Matt Brown already owns nearly every passing record at Illinois State and against Missouri State (Oct. 20), he became the Missouri Valley Football Conference's all-time leading passer. Brown's 204 passing yards against the Bears gave him 9,232 passing yards in his career, surpassing Ryan Helming of Northern Iowa (9,089 yards) for the most passing yards in MVFC history. Brown already holds the top spot in the Valley record books for career attempts (1,290) and completions (824).
I'LL TAKE THAT
Redbird senior safety Ben Ericksen has been a takeaway artist all year and took it to another level Saturday against Missouri State (Oct. 20). The Greendale, Wis., native intercepted two Missouri State passes to up his season total to five. He previously recorded a pair of interceptions in a win at Eastern Michigan and one against Western Illinois. Ericksen upped the team's total to 10 this season, seven more than the Redbirds had last year and the most for the Redbirds since 2010 (13).
PICK YOUR POISON
The defensive trio of middle linebacker Mike Zimmer, and defensive linemen Colton Underwood and Shelby Harris were extremely busy against Missouri State and each set career-bests against the Bears (Oct. 20). Zimmer set a career-high with a team-leading 17 tackles, marking his fifth double-digit tackling effort of the season. Underwood also set a career-best with 15 tackles added 2.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack. Harris rounded out the efforts with new career-highs in tackles (12) and tackles-for-loss (3) and tied a career-best with two sacks against the Bears.
'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. 17 in both The Sports Network Top 25 Poll and the FCS Coaches Poll this week following its tough defeat at the hands of Missouri State (Oct. 20). The Redbirds have now been ranked for 15-straight weeks, dating back to last season.
One of the Illinois State football team's main goals headed into the season was to be "Road Warriors" and win crucial games away from home. Through the first eight games of the season, the Redbirds have done just that with a 3-0 record away from Hancock Stadium. The trio of road wins are the most for the Redbirds since the 2006 season, when ISU was 4-2 on the road in the regular season, with three MVFC road wins included. ISU will hit the road for the next two weeks, looking to improve on its spotless road record in search of a playoff berth.
With his 204 yards passing against Missouri State (Oct. 20), ISU quarterback Matt Brown became the first quarterback in school history to throw for over 2,000 yards in four-consecutive seasons. The Marion, Ill., native has thrown for 2,011 yards in 2012 and is on pace to surpass 2,700 passing yards on the season. If he gets there, Brown will top his previous single-season best of 2,665 set in 2010 and rank No. 4 overall on the single-season passing list at ISU.
YOU THROW IT, I'LL CATCH IT
In the postgame press conference following the team's loss to Missouri State (Oct. 20), Tyrone Walker explained that he was going to do everything he could to come down with touchdown attempts from quarterback Matt Brown. That's exactly what the senior wideout did, as he caught five passes for 53 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns against the Bears. The multi-touchdown effort was his first of the season and the sixth for Walker in his career at ISU. His two touchdowns receptions were the 26th and 27th of his career, second at ISU all-time to Laurént Robinson (29), and he upped his career receiving yardage total to 2,918, second to only Robinson (3,007) in program history.
Redbird sophomore placekicker Nick Aussieker was faced with a stressful kick last Saturday against Missouri State (Oct. 20), but he did not let the situation get the better of him and he booted a career-best 47-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to bring the Redbirds within a touchdown. The kick topped his previous best of 42 yards earlier this season at South Dakota (9/29/12). Aussieker is second on the team in scoring with 46 points this season and has made 5-of-6 field goal attempts and 31-of-32 PAT kicks.
A COMEBACK FOR THE AGES
Facing a 21-point deficit in the second quarter, Illinois State put together a record-setting comeback to secure a 35-28 victory over No. 8 Youngstown State Saturday. The Redbirds scored 28 unanswered points on the Penguins, with the go-ahead score coming on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Matt Brown with 2:44 left in the game. The 21-point deficit tied ISU's biggest come-from-behind victory in school history. ISU last overcame the three-score deficit on Oct. 23, 1999, at Southern Illinois, winning, 55-48.
SUCCESS ON THIRD DOWN
In ISU's loss to Southern Illinois (Oct. 6), the Redbirds struggled mightily on third down and failed to convert a single try with a 0-for-12 effort in the 17-0 shutout loss to the Salukis. Just a week later, the Redbirds were lethal on third down and converted two-thirds of their attempts, thanks to a season-best 10-for-15 (66.7 percent) effort on third down against No. 8 ranked Youngstown State (Oct. 13). On the season, ISU has converted 41 percent of its third-down tries (44-for-108) and raised its season percentage by four points with the strong performance against YSU.
BROWN BOUNCES BACK
ISU senior quarterback Matt Brown threw a career-high four interceptions and arguably played the worst game of his stellar career in ISU's shutout loss to Southern Illinois (Oct. 6). After a rough start in the team's game against No. 8 Youngstown State (Oct. 13), Brown swept away the cobwebs and finished with a stellar performance to earn MVFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Marion, Ill., native threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns and scored the game-winner with 2:44 left in the game on a one-yard quarterback sneak to finish the game with four touchdowns. Brown has now thrown three touchdowns or more in four games this season and is responsible for 73 career touchdowns, pushing him ahead of Luke Drone (72) for the all-time ISU record.
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 211 in his career, moving past current Jacksonville Jaguar Laurént Robinson (192) for the all-time lead in that category. Walker is also in second place on the career receiving yards list with 2,918, trailing only Robinson (3,007). Walker also trails Robinson (29) in career touchdown receptions in second place with 27.
Heading into halftime, Illinois State head coach Brock Spack knew he needed to make a change in order for his team to come away with a victory against No. 8 ranked Youngstown State (Oct. 13). Spack changed his defensive game plan at the break, after surrendering touchdowns on the Penguins' first four possessions en route to at 28-7 deficit. Spack's adjustments certainly seemed to work, as the Illinois State defense stiffened over the final two quarters, holding YSU scoreless over its last eight possessions and to just 100 total yards over the final two quarters of play. The Redbirds also had to find a way to stop YSU running back Jamaine Cook, who rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns through the first two quarters. Their plan worked, with Cook only able to gain 32 yards the rest of the way.
DUDLEY DOES IT ALL
Junior wide receiver Phil Dudley did it all for the Redbirds in their come-from-behind victory over No. 8 Youngstown State (Oct. 13) at Hancock Stadium. The transfer from Ball State caught two passes for 14 yards, picked up seven yards on a reverse run and had a 29-yard kick return for the Redbirds. However, his biggest contribution of the day came when he caught a lateral from quarterback Matt Brown and then fired a 50-yard pass to Lechein Neblett, which put the Redbirds at the YSU two-yard line and set up Brown's game-winning quarterback sneak late in the fourth quarter.