THREE KEYS TO WIN (ISU)
This is seemingly a key to a Redbird victory every week. This year’s team has been notorious for starting slow and trying to play catch up. Scoring first will take some pressure off the Redbirds, who are desperate to get back in the win column.
SIU allowed six sacks last week in the loss to South Dakota State, and four the week before against Northern Iowa. Dalton Keene, B.J. Bello and the defensive line need to put Straughan on his back a few times to help slow down the relentless Saluki passing attack.
Keep Kolbe upright
Jake Kolbe was sacked six times in each of the last two games for the Redbirds. If the offensive line can give Kolbe time, he has the ability to pick apart opposing defensives, but that is a big if. Kolbe, when under pressure, is more prone to turning the ball over, which is a fantastic recipe to lose ballgames, which ISU fans have seen in the past four outings.
THREE KEYS TO WIN (SIU)
SIU is leading the MVFC in passing yards and are taking on a Redbird secondary with the exception of last week and the win over Northwestern that has been suspect this season. SIU heavily favors the pass over the run, so expect more of the same Saturday night.
Take the crowd out
The ISU fans have to be restless after the turn of the tide since that big week two victory over Northwestern, which feels like long ago. If SIU takes an early lead, the Redbird crowd will be taken out of the game and not be a factor.
Get some stops
SIU has allowed 30 or more points in three of the team’s five games this season, including two straight weeks. The last two weeks the Salukis have let up a whopping 87 points and 970 total yards. ISU’s offense has struggled recently but has shown the ability to move the ball down the field at times. The Salukis defense could have its hands full with the balanced Redbird attack.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Illinois State (2-4, 0-3 MVFC) has lost four straight games for the first time since 2004. The offense has managed to score just 16 points the last two games combined and failed to score a touchdown in the 20-6 defeat last weekend against Youngstown State. Quarterback Jake Kolbe and the offense need to get back on track if the Redbirds want any chance at making a run to the playoffs.
Southern Illinois (2-3, 0-2 MVFC) is coming off of two straight losses to ranked MVFC opponents in Northen Iowa and a shootout defeat at home against South Dakota State last weekend 45-39. SIU is 0-2 in road games this season. SIU leads the MVFC in passing yards with over 1,600 yards.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
James Robinson is coming off of his first career 100 rushing performance for the Redbirds. The freshman had 14 carries and averaged 7.3 yards per carry against YSU. Robinson is facing a SIU defense that allowed 212 rushing yards two weeks ago against UNI. Look for Robinson to lead the ’Birds rushing attack again this week to help balance the attack and take pressure off Kolbe and the passing game.
Josh Straughan has 1,608 passing yards this season, which is the best in the Valley. Last week the senior threw 50 times for 380 yards and two touchdowns, his second straight week of throwing more than 300 yards. The 6’2’’ quarterback will look to feast on the Redbird secondary who gave up 303 passing yards two weeks ago against North Dakota State.
SPACK: “They are a lot different than last year. They are a 4-3 structured team while also being more over and under. They are more tradtional now than they have been in the past. They used to be a 3-4 and mix it up but that has changed. They play a lot of corner coverage. They are different from how they have played in the past. They are in transition as well. They are on the right track and getting better every week.”
TV: Broadcast live at 6 p.m. Saturday on CSN Chicago Plus/Watch ESPN.
RADIO: WJBC (AM 1230)
WZND (FM 1033)
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ILLINOIS STATE 37, Southern Illinois 31
The Redbirds win in a shootout at Hancock Stadium Saturday night and get back in the win column. If ISU has not learned that coming out fast is important by now, then the team never will. Kolbe and the offense will be able to move the ball against the suspect Saluki defense. Same could be said for the Saluki offense and the massive passing attack they possess. The Salukis streak of giving up 30-plus points will continue. Whoever has the ball last will be the winner of this contest, look out for Jake Kolbe and Anthony Warrum to have monster games. ISU’s hopes to make it to playoffs will survive another week.