Illinois State’s football team is set to begin the regular season after its annual red-white scrimmage Saturday at Hancock Stadium.
The Redbirds open their 2022 campaign with a challenge on the road versus Wisconsin.
“I don’t think we’ll play a better team. I think this is the best team that I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It’s probably the best team that Illinois State’s ever played,” head coach Brock Spack said.
The Redbirds will look to challenge Wisconsin and the rest of their schedule with a revamped offensive attack featuring new transfer quarterback Zack Annexstad and coordinator Tony Petersen. Petersen has implemented a spread, motion-heavy offense with big play capability. Execution will be the determining factor in the Redbirds' success.
“We’ve got to make the right reads at quarterback, we got to protect the quarterback and when the ball goes down field, the wideouts got to make plays,” Petersen said.
Travis Niekamp is entering his fifth year as defensive coordinator, looking to mesh returning players with talent new to the team.
“We have several guys who’ve played a lot of football for us back, we’ve had to replenish some guys with some transfers, and then they’re kind of getting a little more comfortable,” Niekamp said.
Cornerback Franky West, a returning starter for the Redbirds, echoes the importance of cohesiveness amongst the defensive unit.
“Coming together and gelling as a team — that's the number one priority for this team to have a good year,” West said.
After facing the season’s toughest competition in week one, ISU will round out its non-conference schedule with games against Valparaiso and Eastern Illinois.
A Family Weekend game against Southern Illinois and a homecoming bout with South Dakota standout as prominent home games for the Redbirds.
Road games versus 2021 FCS champion North Dakota State and semifinalist South Dakota State look to be yet another challenge on the Redbirds’ schedule.
ISU and the Badgers kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 in Madison, Wisconsin.