Get off your couches and get unplugged from your televisions and video game consoles to cheer on the Redbird football team at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at Hancock Stadium when the squad takes on the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. In this day and age with an abundance of technologies, it seems easier than ever for students to sit inside the comfort of their dorm rooms and apartments to watch Saturday afternoon football games on their high-definition television sets. However, part of the college experience is about getting out with fellow students and enjoying college athletics in your own backyard.
Why watch games on television with schools that you have no affiliation to when you can walk on over to Hancock Stadium and cheer on your own school’s team? Or instead of watching the Redbird football game on Comcast SportsNet, why not walk over to Hancock Stadium and enjoy the game in-person with all the other Illinois State University students and fans? Some dismiss attending because they say the excitement is not as high as at Football Bowl Subdivision schools because the competition level is not the same. However, the truth of the matter is that ISU faces off against the best opponents in the Football Championship Subdivision and plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which is known as the Southeastern Conference of the FCS.
MVFC schools are certainly capable of defeating FBS schools. As a case in point, North Dakota State has upended FBS opponents for five straight seasons. Northern Iowa beat Iowa State in 2013, Youngstown State defeated Pittsburgh in 2012, ISU upended Eastern Michigan in 2012 and more. With ISU athletics, it seems that students come out to games in large numbers for marquee games and then don’t show up for other games. For instance, students were seen having a great time at the basketball games against Bradley and top-five-ranked Wichita State last year, and at the football team’s home opener of the new Hancock Stadium against Abilene Christian last year and the Homecoming and Family Weekend games. Still, some don’t come back to other games after having so much fun.
This has to change because ISU teams feed off of large student crowds and seeing the same large student crowds for all seven home games would allow them to have even more success than only having a packed student section for the marquee games. There is no reason not to come back to subsequent games after having such a great time previously.
ISU football is poised for a breakout season after having its first sub-.500 season in five years last campaign. The Redbirds have acquired junior transfer quarterback Tre Roberson from Indiana, who is currently in a battle for the starting spot with sophomore Blake Winkler. It appears that the Redbirds cannot go wrong either way, whether it is picking Roberson, who has experience playing in the Big Ten, or Winkler, who has a year of experience as the starting quarterback under his belt.
The Redbirds also return last year’s leading rusher, junior running back and 2014 team captain Marshaun Coprich. Coprich rushed for 890 yards last year and recorded nine touchdowns. Two players have been selected to the 2014 MVFC Preseason Team including senior preseason All-American long snapper Chris Highland and 2013 All-MVFC Second-Team linebacker Pat Meehan. Senior offensive tackle Jermaine Barton was named as a preseason honorable mention selection.
The future looks bright for the Redbirds. Don’t forget to attend the squad’s first home game at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at Hancock Stadium.