No. 14 ISU Hosts No. 4 UNI on Senior Day
Ashton Leggett
Ashton Leggett

Nov. 15, 2011

 #4 Northern Iowa (8-2, 6-1 MVFC) at #14 Illinois State (7-3, 5-2 MVFC) | Normal, Ill.
 Date  Saturday, Nov. 19
 Location
 Normal, Ill.
 Kickoff
 11 a.m. CT
 Stadium
 Hancock Stadium
 Stadium Capacity
 9,500
 Watch Live  ESPN3 (Scott Warmann - Play-by-Play | Danan Hughes - Analyst)
 Radio  WJBC 1230 AM, FM 93.7 (Dick Luedke - Play-by-Play | Ted Schmitz - Analyst)
 Live Stats  GameTracker
 Game Notes  Illinois State | Northern Iowa | Missouri Valley Football Conference

PLAYER TO WATCH
Senior running back Ashton Leggett has been one of the most consistent offensive threats for the Redbirds in 2011. Leggett heads into the final regular-season game with 966 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, meaning he needs just 34 yards rushing to become the first Redbird to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since 2006, when Pierre Rembert rushed for a school single-season record 1,743 yards on the ground.

THE GAME
No. 14 Illinois State (7-3, 5-2 MVFC) heads into its final regular-season game with a potential FCS playoff berth and a five-game winning streak on the line, when the Redbirds welcome the No. 4 Northern Iowa Panthers (8-2, 6-1 MVFC) to Hancock Stadium on Senior Day.

THE SERIES
Northern Iowa leads the all-time series against Illinois State by an 18-9 margin. The Panthers have won four out of the last five contests in the series overall, including a 42-14 dismantling of ISU last season at the UNI Dome. However, the last time the Panthers visited Hancock Stadium in 2009, the Redbirds handed them a shocking 22-20 loss in the final seconds of play to put UNI out of playoff consideration.

Last Meeting
Illinois State
14
Northern Iowa
42
October 23, 2010
Cedar Falls, Iowa
No. 19 Northern Iowa Runs Past Illinois State, 42-14
Despite sophomore wide receiver Tyrone Walker's career day, the Illinois State football team (4-4, 3-3 MVFC) fell to Missouri Valley Football Conference rival Northern Iowa (4-3, 3-1 MVFC) Saturday evening, 42-14, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

THE COACHES
Illinois State: Brock Spack (Purdue, 1983) is in his third season as the head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds (19-13). With ISU's 38-30 win at Southern Illinois, Spack became the first 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.

Head Coach Brock Spack | ISU Coaching Staff

Northern Iowa: Mark Farley (Northern Iowa, 1986) is in his 11th year as the head coach at UNI (97-39). During Farley's 11 years as the head coach at his alma mater, the Panthers have won six conference championships, made six playoff appearances, had nine top-25 final rankings, advanced to three national semifinal appearances and appeared in one national title game in 2005.

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

  • The University of Northern Iowa is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and has an enrollment of 13,080 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 18 starters from last year's team that finished with a 7-5 overall record and a 6-2 mark (1st) in Missouri Valley Football Conference play. The Panthers were the regular-season MVFC champions and earned the league's automatic bid into the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, where they were defeated in the first round by No. 18 Lehigh, 14-7.
  • UNI is 6-1 in Valley Football action this season, with the only loss coming to nationally ranked North Dakota State by a score of 27-19 on Oct. 29 at the FargoDome.
  • The Panthers rattled off 27 unanswered points and held Southern Utah scoreless in the second half to pull out a 34-21 win last Saturday at the UNI-Dome in non-conference action.
  • UNI quarterback Tirrell Rennie leads the way on offense for the Panthers. A 2011 Walter Payton Award watch list selection and the MVFC Newcomer of the Year, Rennie has completed 61.6 percent of his passes this season and has thrown for 1,581 yards and 10 touchdowns. Rennie is also a big threat with his legs, having rushed for 639 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, and seemed to not lose a step with a strong performance against Southern Utah after missing the previous week's game with an ankle injury.
  • A pair of senior defensive standouts have made the Northern Iowa defense the second-best scoring defense in the conference. Senior defensive lineman Ben Boothby and linebacker L.J. Fort have both been named to the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award watch list among the best defensive players in the nation. Boothby leads the team with 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, while Fort leads the conference with 129 tackles and has added 6.0 tackles for loss.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 6-4 against the Redbirds.
  • Darrelynn Dunn and Tim Dawson and Northern Iowa's Casey DeHoedt, Wilmot Wellington, Justin Wissler and Mark Boren were teammates at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

SOMETHING's GOTTA GIVE
Illinois State and Northern Iowa will meet for the 28th time in the history between the two schools today, but both teams being nationally-ranked makes this game just a bit more important than some of its predecessors. The Redbirds and Panthers have met on the gridiron when both teams were ranked three previous times, with UNI coming out on top 2-1 in those contests. The Redbirds picked up their lone win in those three match ups in 1999 at home with a 47-28 drubbing of the Panthers. UNI took the upper hand with wins over the ranked 'Birds in 2006 at the UNI-Dome (38-27) and in 2007 at Hancock Stadium (23-13).

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 a 14-2 record at Hancock Stadium, including a 5-0 record at home so far in 2011 after a 31-7 victory over in-state rival Western Illinois on Family Day (Nov. 5). Overall, the Redbirds have won eight games in a row at home dating back to 2010, the longest winning streak since the team won 10 in a row from 1998-2000, which is the longest home winning streak in school history.

A RUN FOR THE RECORD BOOKS
Senior running back Ashton Leggett has been one of the most consistent offensive threats for the Redbirds in 2011, and heads into the final regular-season game with 966 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, meaning he needs just 34 yards rushing to become the first Redbird to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since 2006, when Pierre Rembert rushed for a school single-season record 1,743 yards on the ground. Leggett would also become just the 11th person in school history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in a single season.

RARE AIR
In his three seasons as the starter at quarterback for the Redbirds, junior Matt Brown already has his names in the ISU record book in several categories. With another season left, Brown could break most of Kevin Glenn's passing records, but he can achieve another milestone against Northern Iowa. With 22 yards passing against the Panthers, Brown will move over 7,000 career passing yards and will become just the third quarterback in school history to achieve that feat.

YOU CAN CALL ME CAL
Senior center Cal McCarthy graded out at 92 percent and helped Illinois State rack up 273 rushing yards in a 31-7 win over in-state rival Western Illinois (Nov. 5), and for his efforts, he was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week for the second time in his career. The Shorewood, Ill., native was credited with eight knockdowns against the Leathernecks and helped three different players rush for over 50 yards and a touchdown each.

REDBIRDS ON A ROLL
With the team's 31-7 win over Western Illinois (Nov. 5), the Redbirds extended their winning streak to five games in a row, marking the team's first five-game winning streak since 2006. ISU will have a chance to extend that streak to six games against Northern Iowa, something the 'Birds have not achieved since they also won six games in a row in 2006 on way to a playoff berth and a 9-4 overall record.

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
Many observers around the Missouri Valley Football Conference and opponents of Illinois State are fully aware of junior quarterback Matt Brown's talents throwing the football. The 2009 MVFC Freshman of the Year has thrown for nearly 7,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in his three year career, but lately he has shown he can be dangerous with this legs as well. In the team's 31-7 win over Western Illinois (Nov. 5), Brown rushed for a career-high 57 yards including a 50-yard touchdown run on a option keeper that fooled nearly everybody in the stadium. Brown also rushed for his first career touchdown on a bootleg keeper against No. 14 South Dakota (Oct. 15), proving he is not a one-trick quarterback.

NEXT MAN UP
Illinois State was without leading rusher Ashton Leggett in the first half against Western Illinois (Nov. 5), but that did not seem to affect the Redbird rushing attack. With senior Cliffton Gordon getting the start, the Redbirds controlled the game on the ground and had three players rush for over 50 yards each, led by Gordon's team-high 78 yards. A total of six players earned carries on the day and five of those players averaged over four yards per carry on way to 273 yards rushing for the Redbirds.

REDBIRD TRIO FINDS THE ENDZONE
The balanced Redbird rushing attack against Western Illinois (Nov. 5) saw three different players rush for scores in the 31-7 victory on Family Day. Quarterback Matt Brown (50 yards), junior transfer running back Darrelynn Dunn (20 yards) and senior tailback Cliffton Gordon (2 yards) each found the endzone on the ground for ISU. The trio became the first to each score in the same game since Geno Blow, Parrish Fisher and Walter Mendenhall each scored on runs against Missouri State on Oct. 18, 2008.

LUCKY NO. 7?
With Illinois State's 31-7 win over in-state rival Western Illinois (Nov. 5) at Hancock Stadium, the Redbirds picked up their seventh win of the season, the most for the team since they went 9-4 in 2006 on way to a FCS playoff berth and a win in the first round. Whether this year's seven wins will be good enough to get the team into the playoffs is yet to be seen, but a win in today's game against nationally-ranked Northern Iowa would give ISU its eighth win and would almost guarantee the Redbirds a spot in the playoffs.

IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Coming off five-straight wins, including two over ranked opponents, Illinois State stayed at No. 14 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 Poll (Nov. 14). The Redbirds also improved two spots in the FCS Coaches Poll up to No. 14, thanks to some shuffling in the poll during ISU's bye week. ISU has now been ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com poll for four-consecutive weeks. MVFC leader North Dakota State dropped to No. 5 in both polls after a loss to Youngstown State last week and Northern Iowa moved up a spot in both polls to No. 4 after a win last week against Southern Utah.

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 four broadcasts already in the books, the Redbirds will appear for the second and final time this season today against Northern Iowa on ESPN3.com, as part of an agreement with the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

THRICE IS NICE
With the Redbirds' 38-30 win over Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), Illinois State secured its third-straight winning season for the first time since the team posted three-straight from 1998-2000. Third-year head coach Brock Spack is the first 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.

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 sixth in the nation and first in the Missouri Valley Football Conference at 81.3 yards per game, and ISU is ranked 14th in the country in total defense (305.2 ypg) and 12th in scoring defense (18.8 ppg).