PLAYER TO WATCH
In four years at Illinois State, Tyrone Walker has cemented himself at or near the top of several career lists at ISU. With his 120-yard performance in the victory over UNI last Saturday, the Indianapolis, Ind., native became the ISU leader in career receiving yards (3,038), passing current Jacksonville Jaguar Laurént Robinson (3,007) for the top spot. Walker's touchdown in the second quarter also upped his career total to 28, moving him within one of Robinson.
No. 15 Illinois State (7-2, 4-2 MVFC) and No. 14 Indiana State (7-2, 5-1 MVFC) both have a lot at stake in Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium, as each team looks to keep its conference championship hopes alive and all but secure a FCS playoff berth with an eighth win on the season.
The Last Meeting
October 22, 2011
Illinois State and Indiana State will play for the 64th time in history of the series when they meet at Memorial Stadium Saturday. The Redbirds have had a lot of recent success against the Sycamores, winning six out of the last seven contests and 12 out of the last 14 meetings overall. However, Illinois State's last trip to Terre Haute did not go well, as the Sycamores came away with a dominant 59-24 victory on Oct. 9, 2010.
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (26-16). In his four seasons at the helm of the program, the Redbirds have put together four-straight winning seasons for the first time since 1945-48.
Indiana State: Trent Miles (Indiana State, 1987) is in his fifth season at the helm of the Indiana State football program (20-34). Under the leadership of Miles, the Sycamores have posted consecutive winning seasons (6-5 in both 2010-11) for the first time since 1995 and 1996.
- 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 Indiana State University is located in Terre Haute, Ind., and has an enrollment of 12,114 students. The Sycamores are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at the Memorial Stadium (12,764).
- The Sycamores return several starters from last year's squad that finished with a 6-5 mark overall and a 4-4 record in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
- Indiana State (7-2, 5-1 MVFC) is ranked No. 14 in the country in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll this week, following a dominant win over South Dakota at home last week.
- The Sycamores have won five consecutive games and are 5-1 for the first time ever in MVFC play and have won five games in league action for the first time in school history.
- Defense has been the key for Indiana State this year, as the Sycamores boast one of the best in FCS football. Indiana State is ranked No. 5 in the country in total defense, allowing 283 yards per game to opponents. The Sycamores are also allowing just over 12.5 points per game, which ranks them No. 2 in the country.
- Indiana State junior Shakir Bell went over the 100 rushing yard mark for the sixth time this season and the 18th time in his career, when he posted 150 yards on the ground in the 45-14 victory over South Dakota last weekend. The 2012 Walter Payton Award Watch List member has rushed for 1,306 yard and 11 touchdowns this season and ranks No. 5 in the country in rushing yards per game.
- Senior linebacker Aaron Archie leads the way for the Sycamores on defense with 102 total tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. However, a familiar name to Redbird fans is also making a splash in Terre Haute and that is Connor Underwood, the younger brother of Illinois State defensive end Colton Underwood. Connor leads the team with six sacks and has added nine tackles for loss.
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 redshirt freshman linebacker at Indiana State. They were teammates at Washington Community High School in Washington, Ill.
- Illinois State Assistant Athletics Director for Communications Mike Williams spent two season working full-time in the Indiana State athletics media relations office from 2007-09.
One of Illinois State's team goals for the year was to be road warriors and have a perfect record on the road. After the Redbirds' 33-21 victory at UNI (Oct. 27), they improved to 4-0 away from home this season. The four road wins are the most for a Redbird team since 2006 and the most for a Spack team in his four years at Illinois State. With a win next weekend at Indiana State, ISU would post its first spotless record on the road since 1937 when the team was 5-1-2 overall with the only loss coming at home.
WALKING UP THE CHARTS
In four years as a standout receiver at Illinois State, Tyrone Walker has cemented himself at or near the top of several career lists at ISU. With his performance in the victory over UNI (Oct. 27), Walker became the ISU all-time leader in receiving yards passing current Jacksonville Jaguar Laurént Robinson for the top spot. Walker's 120 yards receiving moved him past Robinson (3,007) for the Illinois State career lead in receiving yards with 3,038. In addition, his touchdown in the second quarter upped his career total to 28, moving him within one receiving touchdown of tying Robinson (29) for first on the ISU career receiving touchdowns list. Walker also owns the school record for career receptions has recorded 13 games with over 100 yards receiving in his career at ISU.
PACK YOUR DEFENSE
Illinois State head coach Brock Spack often tells his team that in order to win on the road, they better pack their defense. The Redbirds did just that against UNI (Oct. 27), as they forced four turnovers and tied a season high in sacks to come away with a tough road victory at the UNI Dome. ISU tied a season-best with three interceptions against the Panthers and Nate Palmer forced a fumble on the final defensive play of the day on a sack of Sawyer Kollmorgen to bring the turnover total to four on the day. The defense also tied a season-best with five sacks, led by two from junior defensive tackle Shelby Harris.
THE BROTHERS UNDERWOOD
There will be a sibling rivalry brewing on the turn at Memorial Stadium when Illinois State visits Indiana State. Junior defensive end Colton Underwood will represent Illinois state and his younger brother, redshirt freshman Connor, will suit up for Indiana State on defense at linebacker. It will mark the first time the two brothers have faced each other on opposite sides at the collegiate level and both are playing at a very high level. Colton is a 2012 Buck Buchanan Award Watch List member and leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss. Connor leads the Sycamores with six sacks and is second on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss in nine games played.
'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 No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll this week, following its 33-21 road victory over UNI (Oct. 27). The Redbirds have now been ranked for 16-straight weeks, dating back to last season.
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 now has 9,506 yards passing in his career and also holds the top spots in the Valley record books for career attempts (1,317) and completions (846).
I'LL TAKE THAT
Redbird senior safety Ben Ericksen has been a takeaway artist all year and he added to that total in the last two games. At Missouri State (Oct. 20), the Greendale, Wis., native intercepted two 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 also added on in the road victory at UNI (Oct. 27), which he returned 47 yards and eventually led to a Darrelynn Dunn touchdown run. Ericksen upped his total to six ad the team's total to 13 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.
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.
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.