No. 22 Redbirds, Salukis Face Off on Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Nate Palmer
Nate Palmer

 #22 Illinois State (5-3, 3-2 MVFC) at Southern Illinois (2-5, 1-4 MVFC) | Normal, Ill.
 Date  Saturday, Oct.29
 Location
 Carbondale, Ill.
 Kickoff
 2:30 p.m. CT
 Stadium
 Saluki Stadium
 Stadium Capacity
 15,000
 Television  Comcast SportsNet Chicago (Kurt Pegler - Play-by-Play | Boomer Grigsby - Analyst)
 Radio  WJBC 1230 AM, FM 93.7 (Dick Luedke - Play-by-Play | Ted Schmitz - Analyst)
 Live Stats  GameTracker
 Game Notes  Illinois State | Southern Illinois | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Junior defensive end Nate Palmer set new career highs with two sacks and three tackles-for-loss and added five tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble last week in ISU's win against No. 16 ranked Indiana State. For his efforts, The Chicago, Ill., native and Illinois transfer was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week by the league office.

THE GAME
Coming off a pair of victories over ranked opponents at home, No. 22 Illinois State (5-3, 3-2 MVFC) will hit the road for the final time during the 2011 season for an in-state showdown with Southern Illinois (2-5, 1-4 MVFC) at the recently built Saluki Stadium on Halloween weekend. The game will be telecast live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, with ISU alum Kurt Pegler and former Redbird All-American Boomer Grigsby calling the action from Carbondale.

THE SERIES
Southern Illinois leads the all-time series 38-32-3 and has won the last four meetings in the series overall against Illinois State. The Redbirds' last win in the series came in 2006 and their last win in Carbondale was in 2005, when ISU defeated No. 1 ranked SIU, 61-35, at McAndrew Stadium.

Last Meeting
Southern Illinois
38
Illinois State
17
October 2, 2010
Normal, Illinois
No. 23 Salukis Run Past No. 19 Redbirds
Illinois State wide receiver Marvon Sanders turned in his third consecutive 100-plus yard receiving effort, but Southern Illinois' 342-rushing yards compared to ISU's 69 proved to be the difference, as No. 23 SIU beat No. 19 ISU, 38-17, Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his third season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (17-13). 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

Southern Illinois: Dale Lennon (North Dakota, 1983) is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Salukis (27-16) and his 15th as a collegiate head coach (129-48). He guided the Salukis to back-to-back Missouri Valley Football Conference titles and into the FCS playoffs in each of his first two seasons and his 25 victories in his first three years are five more wins than any other Saluki coach.

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

  • Southern Illinois University is located in Carbondale, Ill., and has an enrollment of 20,037 students. The Salukis are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at the newly-erected Saluki Stadium (15,000).
  • The Salukis return 41 letterwinners and 14 starters from last year's team that finished with a 5-6 overall record and a 4-4 mark (T-3rd) in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
  • For the fourth week in a row, Southern Illinois faltered in the fourth quarter of a close game and dropped a 17-10 decision to No. 2 Northern Iowa, 17-10, at the UNI Dome last Saturday. Southern had a chance at a game-tying touchdown after cornerback Courtney Richmond recovered a fumble by UNI's Brett LeMaster at the 28, but the Panthers took over on downs with 1:24 remaining in the game after stopping the Salukis on four-straight plays.
  • The Salukis have now lost four-straight games for the first time since 2002, a season in which the team finished 4-8.
  • SIU is led on offense by Iowa transfer running back Jewel Hampton. The Indianapolis, Ind., native leads the team with 636 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He rushed for 463 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 23.3 yards on 23 kickoff returns as a true freshman in 2008 with the Hawkeyes.
  • The Salukis boast a well-balanced defensive unit, with seven players registering at least 25 stops on the season. Junior nose tackle Kayon Swanson leads the way with 33 tackles, two sacks and six tackles-for-loss, but senior safety and pre-season All-American Mike McElroy is right behind with 32 tackles, including 21 solo stops.

TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • Southern Illinois offensive line coach Phil Meyer earned his bachelor's degree (1979) and master's (1980) from Illinois State, where he played for three seasons. Meyer served as the offensive line coach at ISU in 1994, and he was also a student assistant (1978) and graduate assistant (1979-80) for the Redbirds.
  • Illinois State linebacker Austin Davis and safety Marcus Harris and Southern Illinois' Alex Martin were high school teammates at Normal Community in Normal, Ill.
  • ISU quarterback Matt Brown and Southern Illinois' Matthew Griffith and Austin Dickson were high school teammates at Marion High School in nearby Marion, Ill.
  • Redbird seniors Cliffton Gordon and Josh Howe and Southern Illinois' Richard Wilson were high school teammates at Marian Catholic in Chicago.
  • Illinois State placekicker Nick Aussieker and Southern Illinois' Jordan Levy were high school teammates at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo.
  • ISU reserve linebacker Brandon Westphal and Southern Illinois' David Boatright and Kenneth Boatright were teammates at Bollingbrook in Bollingbrook, Ill.
  • Redbird linebacker Leonard Hubbard and Southern Illinois' John Lantz were high school teammates at Sacred Heart Griffin in Springfield, Ill.
  • Illinois State's Mike Wood and Southern Illinois' Blake Miller were high school teammates at Center Grove in Greenwood, Ind.

IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Coming off consecutive wins against nationally-ranked opponents at home, Illinois State was tabbed as the No. 22 team in the country in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 Poll released Monday. The national ranking is the first for the Redbirds since 2010, when they were picked as high as No. 19 in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll and No. 23 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 Poll. The Redbirds garnered 496 points in the weekly vote and were behind No. 17 South Dakota and No. 20 Indiana State, despite defeating those two teams in the past two weeks.

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 three broadcasts already in the books, the Redbirds will be back in the national spotlight this weekend's game 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 13-2 record at Hancock Stadium, including a 4-0 record at home so far in 2011 after a 17-14 upset win over No. 16 Indiana State (Oct. 22). 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 eight games of the season. Despite 123 yards rushing from the nation's leading rusher Shakir Bell, the Redbirds held the Sycamores' rushing attack to just 92 net yards rushing on 35 carries in the team's 17-13 victory (Oct. 22). Illinois State has now held six of its eight opponents in 2011 to less than 100 yards rushing in a game, including the last three opponents in a row. ISU is now allowing opponents to rush just 73.25 yards per game, which ranks No. 3 in FCS football and leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

TWO FOR THE SHOW
Illinois State defensive linemen Shelby Harris and Nate Palmer helped the Redbirds hold No. 16 Indiana State to just 92 rushing yards in the team's 17-14 win (Oct. 22), and for their efforts the two were honored by the Missouri Valley Football Conference league office. Harris was named the MVFC Defensive Player of the Week and Palmer was named Valley Newcomer of the Week after ISU picked up its second-straight win over a ranked opponent. Harris tied his career high with two sacks and set a new career standard with two tackles-for-loss in the victory over the Sycamores and Palmer set new career highs with two sacks and three tackles-for-loss to go along with a pass breakup and a forced fumble for the Redbirds.

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 ninth 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 and eighth in those categories this year, respectively.

TO BE THE BEST, YOU HAVE TO BEAT THE BEST
When Illinois State defeated No. 16 Indiana State by a final score of 17-13 (Oct. 22), it marked the first time since 2005 that the Redbirds defeated ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks. Illinois State defeated No. 16 South Dakota by a score of 28-3 last week and upended the Sycamores this week at Hancock Stadium. The last two ranked opponents the Redbirds defeated in a row were No. 1 Southern Illinois on Oct. 15 (61-35) and No. 13 Northern Iowa on Oct. 22 (38-3) of 2005.

TYRONE IS A TON
Junior wide receiver Tyrone Walker has his name all over the Redbird record book in just three season in an ISU uniform, but he moved into prestigious territory against Indiana State by eclipsing 2,000 career receiving yards. The Indianapolis, Ind., native had six catches for 75 to increase his career total to 2,019 yards, making him just the fifth receiver in school history to amass over 2,000 yards receiving. Walker now sits in fifth place, but could catch Eyad Salem in fourth place by the end of the year with 228 yards in the final three games.

LUCK OF THE IRISH
With a last name of O'Shaughnessy, one would expect ISU redshirt freshman tight end James O'Shaughnessy to have a little luck on his side. However, his skills as a pass catcher are what caught the attention of all in attendance against Indiana State (Oct. 22), when he caught a career-long pass of 25 yards on Illinois State's second possession that eventually ended in a Nick Aussieker 40-yard field goal and later caught a 10-yard touchdown pass Matt Brown that turned out to be the game winner for ISU.

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 31 sacks to three sacks allowed (+28) leads all of Division I football (FBS and FCS combined).

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 seven games, one could see why. The offensive line unit of Cody White, Nick Bledsoe, Cal McCarthy, Keenan Wimbley, Milton Owens and Rocco Ammons has allowed just three sacks in eight games played this season, which ranks the unit No. 1 in the country in sacks allowed to opponents.

REDBIRDS ON A ROLL
With the team's 17-14 win over Indiana State (Oct. 22), the Redbirds extended their winning streak to three games in a row, marking the team's first three-game winning streak since 2009. ISU will have a chance to extend that streak to four games against Southern Illinois, something the 'Birds have not achieved since they won six games in a row in 2006 on way to a playoff berth and a 9-4 overall record.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
In his three seasons at Illinois State, head coach Brock Spack has defeated every team in the Missouri Valley Football Conference at least once expect for Southern Illinois. Spack is 0-2 against the Salukis and has lost the two games by a combined 21 points. In contrast, Spack is 3-0 against Missouri State and 2-1 against North Dakota State, Indiana State and South Dakota State.

TWICE IS NICE
With Illinois State's 17-14 victory over No. 16 Indiana State (Oct. 22), ISU knocked off its second-straight ranked opponent in 2011. With the victory, the Redbirds improved to 31-71-1 all-time against ranked Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponents. The 'Birds also 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.

SECOND HALF HEROICS
In recent weeks, Illinois State has 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 No. 14 South Dakota 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. Overall, the Redbirds have out-scored their opponents 136-76 in the final two quarters of play. In contrast, Southern Illinois' offense has scored just a dozen second-half points in the last three games.