With a 24-14 win over the University of Central Arkansas, the Illinois State University football team will continue its strong playoff run taking on No. 1 North Dakota State. After losing to the Bison 37-3 at home Oct. 5, the Redbirds will travel to the Fargo Dome in Fargo North Dakota. Here are five things to know to get ready for the Redbirds semi-final FCS playoff matchup with NDSU;
The Bison have been downright dominant in this series. Facing off for the 13th time Saturday, the Bison hold a 10-2 record over the Redbirds. The last time the ’Birds took a game against the Bison was in back to back years in 2009-10. The two teams have met once before in the playoffs. In the 2014 FCS Championship, the Bison narrowly took a 29-27 come from behind victory. When the two teams faced off on Oct. 5 the Bison were able to capitalize on some mistakes from the ’Birds. An opening drive fumble turned into a 35-yard Trey Lance touchdown pass set the pace early. The Redbirds would score just three points off a Sam Fenlason field goal.
He came to eat
Senior running back James Robinson finished the regular season first in rushing yards (1,316) and second in rushing touchdowns (17). But Robinson is playing some of his best football of the season during the playoffs. Against SEMO, Robinson was truly unstoppable racking up 297 rushing yards and a touchdown. That mark set a career, ISU and Missouri Valley Football Conference playoff record. In the second round against UCA, Robinson continued his strong stretch rushing for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Earlier this season against the Bison, Robinson rushed for 112 yards.
The Bryce is right
Freshman quarterback Bryce Jefferson has proved to be a solid fill-in after Brady Davis’ ACL tear. After struggling in the Redbirds final regular-season game of the year against Youngstown State, Jefferson has found his footing during the playoffs. While not playing at star level at quarterback, Jefferson has done enough to keep the ’Birds in games. Over two playoff games, Jefferson has thrown for 112 yards on 10-18 (55%) throwing. But the most important part of the equation for Jefferson has been not turning the ball over. After throwing two interceptions in limited action during the regular season, Jefferson has not thrown a pick in the playoffs.
Hit the road Jack
Going on the road usually brings a disadvantage for the road team, but that is not the case for the Redbirds who have been road warriors this season. Finishing the season 6-2 on the road, the ’Birds notched four straight road wins after dropping the season opener at FBS Northern Illinois. The ’Birds did not lose another road game until the final regular-season game of the year at Youngstown State. The road warrior motto has stuck in the playoffs, as the ’Birds are perfect in two road games.
How to follow
The game, which begins 11 a.m. Dec. 14 in Fargo, North Dakota, will be available to watch live on ESPN. Fans can also listen live on WJBC AM 1230/93.7 FM or follow along online at goredbirds.com. Sports Editors Jake Sermersheim and Jake Fogal will be live-tweeting the game from @Vidette_Sports on Twitter. Live tweets can also be found on ISU football’s Twitter page, @RedbirdFB, throughout the game.