FACTS & STATS: Site: Hancock Stadium (13,391) – Normal, Illinois. Surface:
Fieldturf. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Shawn Kenney, Al Groh. Home
Record: Northern Iowa 6-1; Illinois State 7-0. Away Record: Northern Iowa 3-3;
Illinois State 3-1. Series Record: Northern Iowa (20-11). Last Meeting:
Nov. 1, 2014 (Northern Iowa, 42-28 at Northern Iowa). 34-23). Series Streak:
Illinois State has won 12 of the 15 home games in this series. Conference:
Northern Iowa – Missouri Valley; Illinois State – Missouri Valley. Nicknames:
Northern Iowa Panthers; Illinois State Redbirds. FCS Playoff Seeds: 1Northern
Iowa – Not ranked; Illinois State (5th). Head Coaches: Northern Iowa – Mark
Farley (14th year, 120-55 at Northern Iowa and Overall); Illinois State –
Brock Spack (6th year, 43-25 at Illinois State and Overall). Playoff Records:
Northern Iowa (20-16); Illinois State (4-4). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances:
Northern Iowa 16 (1985, 1987, 1990-96, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007-08, 2010-11);
Illinois State 4 (1998-99, 2006, 2012). Playoff Streak: Northern Iowa has lost
three of its last five FCS playoff games; Illinois State has lost two of its
last three FCS playoff games.
GAME NOTES: What Missouri Valley Football Conference co-champions North
Dakota State and Illinois State have in common is their only losses are to
Northern Iowa. For ISU, it was a 42-28 setback on Nov. 1, but that game was
played at the UNI-Dome. The Redbirds haven’t lost at home in the last two
seasons – a combined 12 straight wins at Hancock Stadium.
Their star running back, Marshaun Coprich (1,683 yards), the MVFC offensive
player of the year, has the chance to surpass Pierre Rembert’s single-season
rushing record (1,743). Coprich has opened the season with 11 straight games
of 100 or more rushing yards, which is one game off Rembert’s ISU consecutive
Coprich and quarterback Tre Roberson feed off each other. The threat of
Coprich opens up the downfield passing. Roberson, the newcomer of the year in
the MVFC, has combined for 29 passing and rushing touchdowns, and his top
three receivers – Cameron Meredith, Lechein Neblett and tight end James
O’Shaughnessy – all average 18 or more yards per reception.
Illinois State has been tough against the run, which is a must against UNI.
Inside linebacker Pat Meehan, the Redbirds’ leading tackler (88), and 6-5,
260-pound defensive end Teddy Corwin are the defensive leaders.
Northern Iowa has won six straight games, including a 44-10 blasting of
Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers are the
historical power in the MVFC and are in their 17th playoff appearance, with 20
all-time wins. Coach Mark Farley is the conference’s all-time wins leader at
Senior running back David Johnson has been at an other-worldly level over the
second half of the season. He has gone over 200 all-purpose yards in five of
the past six games, including 236 yards (152 rushing, 84 receiving) against
Stephen F. Austin.
During UNI’s hot streak, quarterback Brion Carnes has come on with increased
effectiveness, although he doesn’t put up big numbers.
But the Panthers’ season also is about defense. They added three more sacks
against SFA to climb to 50 this season, ranking No. 1 in the FCS. Linebacker
Brett McMakin has the team high with 10 sacks.
In addition, the Panthers are plus-11 in turnovers. They have 11 fumble
recoveries, each by a different player. Deiondre’ Hall and Tim Kilfroy, who
had a pick-six and two interceptions in the win over ISU, lead the team with
five takeaways each.
ISU’s Nick Aussieker has a pair of late game-winning field goals, but UNI
kicker Michael Schmadeke is having an All-American season with 27 field goals
and 129 points.
The winner will advance to play either Montana or No. 4 seed Eastern
Washington in the national quarterfinals.
PREDICTION: Playing in the rugged Missouri Valley, Illinois State has felt
overlooked all season. Here’s the Redbirds’ chance to gain some postseason
attention. Illinois State, 21-20.