Redbirds Hit The Road to Face FCS Defending Champs and No. 1 Ranked Bison
Tevin Allen

Tevin Allen

Nov. 5, 2013

 Illinois State (5-4, 4-2 MVFC) at No. 1 North Dakota State (8-0, 5-0 MVFC)
 Date  Saturday, Nov. 9
 Location
 Fargo, N.D.
 Kickoff
 2:30 p.m. CT
 Stadium
 Fargodome
 Stadium Capacity
 18,700
 Radio  WJBC/Country Financial Illinois State Radio Network (Dick Luedke & Ted Schmitz)
 Watch  Fox Sports North / Fox College Sports Pacific
 Live Stats  StatBroadcast
 Game Notes  Illinois State | North Dakota State | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Junior defensive back Tevin Allen started at safety for the first time in his career and tallied a career-high eight tackles, added a tackle-for-loss, his second interception of the season and returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown in ISU's 13-3 win over UNI last Saturday. Late in the first quarter, Allen scooped up a failed lateral attempt by the Panthers and raced to the end zone for his first career score. For his efforts, Allen was named the MVFC co-Defensive Player of the Week and a College Sporting News National All-Star.

THE GAME
Winners of three-straight games, Illinois State (5-4, 4-2 MVFC) will hit the road to take on two-time defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State (8-0, 5-0 MVFC) Saturday inside the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D.

THE SERIES
The Redbirds and the Panthers will meet for seventh time on Saturday, with NDSU holding a 4-2 advantage over ISU in the series which dates back to 2007. The Bison have won the previous two games against the Redbirds and two out of three games played inside the Fargodome. ISU picked up its only win at the Fargodome in 2009, a come-from-behind 27-24 victory over NDSU.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his fifth season as the head coach at Illinois State (33-22). Spack led the Redbirds to their first playoff victory since 2006, just the third nine-win season in school history and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award during the 2012 season.

North Dakota State: Craig Bohl (Nebraska, 1982) is in his 11th season as the head coach at North Dakota State (97-32). Bohl was named the The Sports Network Eddie Robinson and the AFCA 2012 FCS Coach of the Year, after leading the Bison to their second-straight NCAA Division I Football Championship.

THE #REDBIRDFOOTBALL PROGRAM

  • Four FCS playoff appearances (1998, 1999, 2006, 2012)
  • Three-time FCS quarterfinalists (1999, 2006, 2012)
  • Four-straight winning seasons for the first time since the 1940's
  • The team is 22-6 at home under Spack's guidance.
  • ISU finished the 2013 regular season undefeated at home (5-0), the first perfect home record for the Redbirds since 1999.
  • The team set a program-record cumulative GPA in the Spring 2013 semester.

THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

  • North Dakota State University is located in Fargo, N.D., and has an enrollment of 14,443 students. The Bison are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and play their home games at the Fargodome (18,700).
  • The Bison won their second-straight NCAA Division I Football Championship with a 39-13 win over Sam Houston State on Jan. 5, 2013. That came after NDSU won the MVFC title and tied the school record with a 14-1 record, including a 7-1 record in the MVFC.
  • NDSU is a unanimous pick as the No. 1 ranked team in the country in both nationally-recognized FCS polls. The Bison opened the season with a win at Kansas State and have picked up back-to-back wins over nationally-ranked South Dakota State and UNI on way to an 8-0 record and 5-0 mark in conference play.
  • As one would expect with a No. 1 national ranking, the Bison lead the country in several statistical categories. Defensively, NDSU takes the top spot in total defense, allowing opponents just 245 yards of offense per game and boast the top rushing defense with just 78.5 yards per game allowed. The Bison offense is equally efficient, as they lead the country in average time of possession 34:37, thanks in part to the highest third-down conversion rate in FCS football at 54 percent.
  • Quarterback Brock Jensen leads the way for the Bison offense. The 2013 Walter Payton Award Watch List selection has completed 66.9 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,442 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions.
  • Defensively, the Bison are led by a pair of 2013 Buck Buchanan Award Watch List members. Linebacker Grant Olson leads the team with 70 total tackles, to go along with four sacks, and cornerback Marcus Willians has posted two interceptions and six pass breakups in the secondary.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS VS. NDSU

  • Oct. 3, 2009 at North Dakota State
    Eyad Salem tied a school record with 14 catches, including three on Illinois State's final scoring drive, as the Redbirds outlasted North Dakota State, 27-24. Salem finished the game with 172 yards receiving with a touchdown in the victory over the Bison.
  • Oct. 16, 2010 at Illinois State
    A big hit by senior E.J. Jones in the third quarter forced a fumble and turned the game in Illinois State's favor, as the Redbirds defeated No. 14 North Dakota State, 34-24. Jones' forced fumble wasn't the only big play he made on defense, as he also intercepted two passes against the Bison. Junior Ashton Leggett also rushed for 148 and scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
  • Oct. 1, 2011 at North Dakota State
    Two North Dakota State interceptions with Illinois State threatening deep in NDSU territory helped lift the No. 5 Bison to a 20-10 win against Illinois State at the Fargodome. Evan Frierson was ISU's defensive leader with nine tackles, including one sack and a forced fumble.
  • Nov. 17, 2012 at Illinois State
    No. 11 Illinois State tallied 318 yards of total offense, but came up short as the Redbirds fell to defending FCS national champion and top-ranked North Dakota State, 38-20, in the regular season finale at Hancock Stadium.

The Last Meeting
North Dakota State (Heroes Day)38
Illinois State20
November 17, 2012
Normal, Ill.
No. 11 Redbirds Drop Regular Season Finale, 38-20, to No.1 Bison
No. 11 Illinois State (8-3, 5-3 MVFC) tallied 318 yards of total offense, but came up short as the Redbirds fell to defending FCS national champion and top-ranked North Dakota State (10-1, 7-1 MVFC), 38-20, in the regular season finale at Hancock Stadium Saturday.



THE LAST TIME THEY MET (NOV. 17, 2012)

No. 11 Illinois State tallied 318 yards of total offense and held a 17-14 halftime lead, but came up short and fell to defending FCS national champion and top-ranked North Dakota State, 38-20, in the regular season finale at Hancock Stadium. Senior quarterback Matt Brown completed 22-of-35 passes for 212 yards with one passing touchdown and ran for 37 yards with one rush touchdown in his final regular-season game at home.

PERFECT AT HOME
Last season, Illinois State finished the regular season with a perfect 5-0 record in road games on way to an appearance in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. The 2013 team set a goal to be perfect at home inside the newly-renovated Hancock Stadium, and the team secured a perfect 5-0 regular season home record with a hard-fought 13-3 victory over UNI (Nov. 2). The unblemished record at home is the first for the Redbirds since 1999, when that team finished 5-0 during the regular season and added a home playoff win to finish 6-0 on way to the semifinals of the playoffs.

GETTING DEFENSIVE
Over the past four seasons, the Redbird defense had scored seven touchdowns on defense, but had not found the end zone in 2013 until Saturday against UNI (Nov. 2). Late in the first quarter, safety Tevin Allen scooped up a dropped lateral attempt and returned it 17 yards for a score. It marked the first defensive touchdown for Illinois State since Alex Donnelly returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown last season versus Eastern Illinois. With the touchdown, Illinois State has scored at least one defensive touchdown each year under head coach/defensive coordinator Brock Spack.

WINNING UGLY
There was nothing pretty happening on the field offensively for either team in ISU's 13-3 win over UNI (Nov. 2). The Redbirds amassed just 198 yards of total offense in the win, marking the first time in over 20 years ISU won a game without gaining over 200 yards. The last time ISU won without gaining over 200 yards was Sept. 9, 1989, vs. Central State at Hancock Stadium, when the Redbirds had 94 total yards on 41 plays in a 10-9 win. It also marked the first win for the Redbirds without scoring an offensive touchdown since a 6-3 victory over Indiana State on Oct. 5, 1991, at Hancock Stadium.

ALLEN TAKES HOME WEEKLY HONORS
Illinois State junior defensive back Tevin Allen was selected as one of five College Sporting News All-Stars, for his performance in the team's 13-3 win over UNI (Nov. 2).The national honor is the first for Allen in his career at ISU and the first for a Redbird player this season. Allen was also previously named the MVFC co-Defensive Player of the Week, sharing the weekly honor with Missouri State's Jeremy Springer. In his first career start at safety, the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native finished the game with a career-high eight solo tackles, a tackle-for-loss, his second interception of the season and returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown. Allen and the rest of the stingy Redbird defense allowed a season-low three points and just 211 yards of total offense to UNI in the 13-3 victory over the Panthers.

THAT WAS QUICK
Late in the first quarter against UNI (Nov. 2), Illinois State needed just eight seconds to score 10 points and jump out to an early lead against the Panthers. Placekicker Nick Aussieker nailed a 24-yard field goal with 3:40 left in the first quarter to put the Redbirds up 3-0. After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, safety Tevin Allen scooped up a dropped lateral and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown eight seconds later to put ISU up by 10 points.

ELIMINATING THE BIG PLAY
In Illinois State's losses to nationally-ranked Eastern Illinois and Youngstown State, the Redbird defense allowed a total of 24 plays of over 20 yards or more and the two teams scored a total of nine touchdowns over 20 yards. However, in the team's three-game winning streak, the defense has solidified and cracked down on big-play opportunities. Indiana State, South Dakota and Northern Iowa combined to record just 10 plays of over 20 yards or more and scored just one touchdown on a big play over that time.

AUSSIEKER OUT-SCORES UNI
Junior placekicker Nick Aussieker booted a pair of field goals for Illinois State and converted an extra point attempt to score seven of ISU's points in the team's hard-fought 13-3 victory over UNI (Nov. 2)at Hancock Stadium. The Wildwood, Mo., native put the Redbirds on the scoreboard first with a 24-yard make in the first quarter and put a cap on the scoring with a 28 yard field goal in the fourth quarter to seal the ISU victory. Aussieker tied a career-best with the two field goal makes and continues to show why the Fred Mitchell Award recognized him among 35 placekickers for their excellence on the football field and in the community during the month of October.

FINDING THE END ZONE
A total of eight ISU players have caught touchdown passes this year, including senior Corey Shandrick and Scott Kuehn who each hauled in their first touchdown catch of the season vs. South Dakota (Oct. 26). Shandrick opened the scoring with a career-long 33-yard touchdown catch from Winkler in the first quarter, just his eighth reception of the season and second touchdown of his career. Kuehn's first career touchdown came on a 35-yard pass from Winkler in the second quarter and was just his third career catch in three seasons.

MAKE THAT FOUR IN A ROW
Illinois State did not have a running back rush for over 100 yards in the first four games of the season, but Marshaun Coprich has ended that streak with four-consecutive 100-plus yard rushing performances for the Redbirds in each game they played in the month of October. Against South Dakota (Oct. 26), he made it four in a row when he rushed for 108 yards on a career-high 34 carries to become the first Redbird with four-straight games rushing over the century mark since 2007. Coprich started the streak by rushing for 124 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Western Illinois (Oct. 5) and followed that up with 110 yards and a touchdown against Youngstown State (Oct. 12). Then, against Indiana State (Oct. 19), the Victorville, Calif., native rushed for a career-high 137 yards on 18 carries and tied a career-best with three touchdowns against the Sycamores.

PRATE WAS GREAT
After helping Illinois State to a 28-14 victory over South Dakota (Oct. 26), junior defensive tackle Bradon Prate was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week by the league office (Oct. 27). Prate did it all for the Redbirds on defense against the Coyotes. The Wauconda, Ill., native recorded three tackles, a sack, broke up three passes at the line of scrimmage and intercepted his first career pass. Prate recorded three of ISU's 10 pass deflections in the game and his final of the day fell back into his arms for an interception, which he returned 43 yards to the South Dakota 21-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

NINE IS FINE
With just nine pass completions, it would be hard for any Redbird quarterback to lead his team to victory. However, that's exactly what Blake Winkler did against South Dakota (Oct. 26), as he threw a career-high three touchdown passes on just nine completions to lead the Redbirds to a 28-14 victory. As interesting as that stat may look, it is not all that uncommon for a Redbird quarterback because Matt Brown was 9-for-21 in a 31-17 win over Western Illinois just two years ago on Nov. 5, 2011.

AMMONS LEADS THE WAY
The Illinois State offensive line has led the way for a 100-yard rusher the past four weeks and one of its members was recognized for that accomplishment, when right guard Rocco Ammons was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week by the league office (Oct. 28). Ammons had a stellar day in helping Illinois State improve to 4-0 at Hancock Stadium with a win over South Dakota (Oct. 26). The Warrenville, Ill., native graded out at 95 percent and led the way for running back Marshaun Coprich, who rushed for 108 yards on a career-high 34 carries against the Coyotes. Ammons also helped protect redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Winkler, who led the Redbirds to a win with a career-best three touchdown passes, despite completing just nine passes on the day.

WE ONLY NEED ONE
On two separate occasions in Illinois State's 28-14 victory over South Dakota (Oct. 26), the Redbirds need just one play to score. In the first quarter, Blake Winkler found Corey Shandrick for a 33-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter for a one-play drive. Later, in the third quarter, Marshaun Coprich took the first carry of the Redbird drive for 27 yards to the end zone for the score to give the Redbirds a pair of one-play scoring drives. The one-play scoring drives were the second and third of the season respectively, adding to the one-play, 12-yard drive that lasted just six seconds against Indiana State (Oct. 19).

QUICK STARTERS
With a touchdown on their opening drive of the game against Indiana State (Oct. 19), the Redbirds have scored on their opening possession of the game five times this season. ISU scored touchdowns on its opening drives in the first three games of the season, did not in the ensuing two games, but has in the last two wins at home. The early leads have not always led to wins for the Redbirds, who are 2-3 in games when they score on the opening drive.

SEEING RED
Converting on scoring chances in the red zone is crucial to a team's success, and has proved beneficial for the Redbirds so far in 2013. The Redbirds have converted on 25-of-28 scoring chances in the red zone this season (89 percent), thanks in part to a perfect 6-for-6 effort against Indiana State (Oct. 19). That mark ties the Redbirds for No. 12 in the country in red zone conversions and ranks them second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference behind Youngstown State (94 percent).

JUST TWO YEARS AGO ...
The Redbirds were 2-3 to start the 2011 season and rallied to win five of their last six games of the season to finish with a 7-4 record. Had it not been for a double-overtime loss to nationally-ranked UNI in the season finale, the Redbirds would have been one of the hottest teams heading into the FCS playoffs. The 2013 team would like to put a win streak together like that as well. With team's win over South Dakota (Oct. 26), ISU improved its record to 4-4.