Carbondale Clash: Longtime rivals Illinois State, Southern square off Saturday

Carbondale Clash:  Longtime rivals Illinois State, Southern square off Saturday
James Robinson (photo courtesy of

Two longtime foes, each coming off one-sided losses, renew their rivalry Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale.

Southern Illinois hosts Illinois State in a Missouri Valley Football Conference matchup that also serves as the Salukis' Homecoming.

ISU, ranked No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll, enters the game with a 4-1 overall record and is 2-0 in the MVFC. The Redbirds lost at Northern Arizona 37-16 in their most recent game.

“Our effort was good," ISU head coach Brock Spack said, "the problem was the execution.”

After a 2-0 start, Southern Illinois has lost three straight games. The Salukis were beaten 49-14 by ninth-ranked South Dakota State in an MVFC road game last weekend.

"I don't know another way to paint the picture. They just dominated the football game in every area," SIU head coach Nick Hill said.

The game

Illinois State (4-1 overall, 2-0 in MVFC) at Southern Illinois (2-3 overall, 0-2 in MVFC), 2 p.m. Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Game will air on as well as on each school's radio network)

Three key matchups

  1. ISU running game vs. SIU defense:  The Redbirds have had success controlling the clock this season. Moreover, the ability to run the ball sets up quarterback Jake Kolbe for play-action passes.
  2. SIU passing game vs. ISU defense: The Salukis have thrown the ball on 52 percent of their plays. Two-thirds of SIU's touchdowns have come via the air. Though they gave up 403 passing yards in last week's loss, the Redbirds' secondary is experienced and has been a team strength.
  3. Third down: Illinois State has struggled on third-conversions in recent weeks, yet has stopped opponents a whopping 82 percent of the time. Southern Illinois is converting at a 41 percent clip. The Salukis are thwarting opponents at a 59 percent rate.

More from the coaches


ISU's Brock Spack on the Salukis:

“They are very athletic, Southern usually is. Their tailback (Daquan Isom) is very, very quick. He catches the ball well. He is a dart. He’s very difficult because of his footspeed.

“Their offensive line is very similar to what they have been. They’re very big, thick guys.

“They’re like anybody else in the Missouri Valley, they have plenty of good enough athletes to beat you.”

Nick Hill

SIU's Nick Hill on the Redbirds:

"Illinois State has a great defense, one of the best ones that we've seen. Coach Spack does a great job with those guys. A lot of guys are back from a really good defense last year. The linebackers are different, but up front and in the secondary they're pretty much the same.

"Their DBs are good. (Davontae Harris) has started now for four seasons. As long as I've been here, he's been playing for them. I've seen his dreds grow about 12 inches I think. He's a good player. He's physical and confident. He looks like he has fun playing football.

"Their safeties are both back. Both started every game last year. Front seven, they're good. They're big and strong. They're athletic and taller, which creates some problems. On third down, they do a good job of bringing pass rushers and mixing up their blitzes. They're a sound defense."

Still Brees

Redbird junior safety Mitchell Brees will sit out the first half as a result of being ejected for targeting in last Saturday's game at Northern Arizona. Brees started all 12 games for ISU last season. Senior DraShane Glass will take over for Brees with redshirt freshman Christian Uphoff also likely to see action.


Former SIU great Walt "Clyde" Frazier will serve as the grand marshal of the Homecoming parade. Frazier is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was selected to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996.

The series

SIU leads the all-time series 40-36-3. The Salukis hold a 23-16-1 record in games played in Carbondale.

Key stat

Illinois State has won the last three games played in the rivalry. The Redbirds downed the Salukis 31-28 last fall in Normal.


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