No. 17 Redbirds Return Home to Face The Leathernecks
ISU looking to extend winning streak to five in a row.
Nov. 1, 2011
PLAYER TO WATCH
Junior wide receiver Tyrone Walker
tallied his third 100-plus yard game of the season and eighth of his Illinois State career, amassing 131 yards and one touchdown on seven catches in the Redbirds' 38-30 win at Southern Illinois last weekend. Walker made a highlight-reel, one-handed touchdown grab on a 19-yard pass from Matt Brown
in the second quarter for his eighth touchdown reception of the season. With his seven receptions, Walker (147) tied Clarence Collins for fourth on the ISU career receptions list.
Winners of its last four games, No. 17 Illinois State (6-3, 4-2 MVFC) returns to Hancock Stadium in search of its fifth-straight win when the Redbirds take the field against in-state rival Western Illinois (2-6, 1-4 MVFC) at Hancock Stadium on Family Weekend at ISU.
Western Illinois leads the all-time series against Illinois State by a 50-39-3 margin. The series dates back to 1904 and the two squads have played every year since 1974. The Leathernecks have dominated the series of late, with wins in eight of the last 10 meetings against the Redbirds.
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his third season as the head coach of the Illinois State
Redbirds (18-13). With ISU's 38-30 win at Southern Illinois, Spack is the fi rst head coach to guide his team
to three-consecutive winning seasons since Edwin Struck led the Redbirds to six-straight winning seasons
Head Coach Brock Spack | ISU Coaching Staff
Western Illinois: Mark Hendrickson (Northern Iowa, 1980) is in his 13th year with the
Leatherneck football program and in his second full year as the head coach (15-21). In his first full year as
the Leathernecks' head coach, Western staged the best wins turnaround (+7) in Missouri Valley Football
Conference (MVFC) history thanks to an 8-5 mark and returned to the NCAA FCS playoffs for the first time
in seven years.
- 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
- 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
- Western Illinois University is located in Macomb, Ill., and has an enrollment of 13,000 students. The
Leathernecks are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at
Hanson Field (16,368).
- The Leathernecks return 37 letterwinners and 13 starters from last year's team that finished with a 8-5
overall record and a 5-3 mark (2nd) in Missouri Valley Football Conference play. The Leathernecks
advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the first time in seven years and won at Coastal Carolina 17-10 in the
first round, before falling to No. 2 Appalachian State, 42-14, in the second round.
- Western Illinois fell behind early and lost a 56-14 decision at Youngstown State (Oct. 29). The
Penguins scored on the first play of the game and had six TD drives that needed four plays or less to
pick up a win over the Fighting Leathernecks.
- True-freshman Nikko Watson made his collegiate debut at running back due to injuries against the
Penguins and rushed for a team season-high 149 yards and a touchdown. Watson scored on a 5-yard
run in the third quarter and averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his debut.
- The Leathernecks are led on offense by quarterback Josh Hudson, who has started in seven games
and thrown for over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns, including five to returning All-MVFC performer
- Kevin Palermo leads the WIU defense with a 70 total tackles, including 40 solos stops. Theon Dixon
leads the team with six tackles-for-loss and Kieron James has 28 tackles and two interceptions for the
TIES WITH THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT
- Illinois State senior cornerback Otis Merrill and Western Illinois' Theon Dixon were teammates at
Glenview High School in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Redbirds Nathan Rebholz, Adam Rebholz and Chris Highland, and Western Illinois' Ryan Waldron
were teammates at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Ill. Waldron is a Normal, Ill., native.
- ISU linebacker Brandon Westphal and Western Illinois' Jeff Lindsey were teammates at Bolingbrook
High School in Bolingbrook, Ill.
- Illinois State freshman cornerback Mike Banks and Western Illinois' Justin Morgan were teammates at
Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.
- ISU senior tight end Brandon Venson and Western Illinois' Taylor Hill were teammates at the College
of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
- Illinois State wide receiver Scott Kuehn and Western Illinois' Dwight Harris were teammates at
Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Ill.
IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Coming off four-straight wins including two over ranked opponents, Illinois State moved up to No. 17 in The
Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 Poll released Monday. The Redbirds also broke into the FCS
Coaches Poll, at No. 24, after beating Southern Illinois, 38-30 (Oct. 29). ISU has now been ranked in The
Sports Network/Fathead.com poll for two-consecutive weeks. MVFC leader North Dakota State overtook
the No. 1 spot in both polls after beating former No. 1/No. 2 Northern Iowa.
THRICE IS NICE
With the Redbirds' 38-30 win over Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), Illinois State secured its third-straight winning
season for the fi rst time since the team posted three-straight from 1998-2000. Third-year head coach
Brock Spack is the fi rst head coach to guide his team to three-consecutive winning seasons since Edwin
Struck led the Redbirds to six-straight winning seasons from 1945-1950.
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. In the team's 38-30 win at Southern Illinois (Oct. 29),
ISU's defense limited the Salukis to 73 rushing yards, marking the seventh time this year that the Redbirds
have held a team under 100 rushing yards. Illinois State's rushing-defense is now ranked fourth-best in
the nation and first in the Missouri Valley Football Coonference at 73.22 yards per game, and ISU's overall
defense is ranked 15th in the country.
TURNING DEFENSE INTO OFFENSE
Illinois State sophomore defensive lineman Colton Underwood's 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown
in the first quarter against Southern Illinois (Oct. 29) was the third of the season for the Redbirds. Ben
Ericksen had a 30-yard fumble return in the season opener at EIU and Nate Palmer had a 42-yard fumble
recovery against Morehead State. The last time ISU had three defensive touchdowns in a season was in
2006, all of which were interception returns for touchdowns.
Heading into its crucial road match up at Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), Illinois State brought a four-game
losing streak against the Salukis with it to Saluki Stadium and ISU's 16 seniors were searching for their first
win against SIU in their careers. Thanks to a 38-30 win, the Redbirds snapped a four-game losing streak
to the Salukis and won their first game in Carbondale, Ill., since a 61-35 victory over the then No. 1 ranked
Salukis in 2005.
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 have
caught the attention of Redbird fans as of late. O'Shaughnessy caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from
Matt Brown during Illinois State's win at Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), which was his second-career touchdown
in as many weeks. O'Shaughnessy also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass Brown that turned out to be the
game winner for ISU in the team's upset win against Indiana State (Oct. 22).
WELCOME BACK, MARVON
After suffering a broken hand against North Dakota State (Oct. 1), Illinois State senior wide receiver
Marvon Sanders immediately went into surgery to return to the field as quick as possible. That day finally
came three weeks later against Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), and Sanders looked like he had never been hurt.
The Ypsilanti, Mich., native caught five passes for 85 yards, including a long of 33 yards, and also returned
a punt 25 yards to the SIU 42-yard line that set up a Tyrone Walker touchdown catch in the second
REDBIRDS ON A ROLL
With the team's 38-30 win over Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), the Redbirds extended their winning streak to
four games in a row, marking the team's fi rst four-game winning streak since 2006. ISU will have a chance
to extend that streak to fi ve 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.
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 34
sacks to four sacks allowed (+30) leads all of Division I football (FBS and FCS combined).
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 fi rst 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 four sacks in nine games played this season, which ranks the unit No. 2 in the
country in sacks allowed to opponents.
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 15th in the country in