The No. 13 ranked Illinois State Redbirds will travel to No. 12 Southeast Missouri for the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 30. Coming off a litany of injuries and a loss to Youngstown State in the regular season finale, the Redbirds look to jump start their playoff run against the Redhawks. Here are five things to know heading into the game:
The 'Birds and Redhawks have faced one another 10 times since 1943, with the last game occurring in 2001 where the Redhawks pulled away with a 38-33 win in Normal. The 'Birds hold a 7-3 advantage over the Redhawks, but have struggled to show up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, only accounting for two wins in five trips when at Houck Field.
Earlier on in the decade, the Redbirds had a dominant run that included four playoff appearances in five years. As well as reaching the FCS Championship game in 2014, it was a commonplace for ISU to be in playoff conversation every year. But after the 2016 season, the 'Birds began to falter. In both of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the Redbirds had high hopes and were expected to be present in the playoffs. Posting 6-5 records in each individual season, the 'Birds fell short both times. ISU was able to end the two-year drought and clinched the playoffs this season with an 8-4 record. Under head coach Brock Spack, this is the fifth time he has led the 'Birds to the postseason and has posted a 5-4 record in that time.
The Redbirds go to Southeast Missouri with quite the dilemma at quarterback, as both freshmen Jack Baltz and Bryce Jefferson look to lead the Redbirds at the position. Former starter Brady Davis went down against Missouri State on Nov. 16 with a torn ACL. Both Baltz and Jefferson combined for three pass attempts in that game and two of the passes were intercepted. In the regular season finale against YSU, the two quarterbacks combined for three completed passes on 16 attempts. Also injured, backup running back Jeff Proctor, who also went down with a torn ACL in the game against Missouri State. This puts added pressure on James Robinson, who has had a tremendous season.
Early Bird Gets the Worm
Out of the 12 games this season for the Redbirds, much of their success is riding on how they start the game. When scoring first in a contest this season, the 'Birds hold a 7-0 record. As well as leading after the first quarter, the 'Birds hold a 5-0 record against their opposition. The Redbirds have been able to get off to these hot starts due to the performances by Robinson, as well as their overwhelming defense.
How to Follow
The game, which begins 1 p.m. Nov. 30 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, will be available to watch live on ESPN3. Fans can also listen live on WJBC AM 1230 or follow along online at goredbirds.com. Sports Editors Blaine Lewallen and Jake Sermersheim 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.