During a 2-0 start, Illinois State’s dynamic offense has scored 94 points and tallied four touchdowns on plays longer than 30 yards.
Defensively, the Redbirds are allowing only 2.8 yards per play and 5.0 points a game.
Those results, however, have come against a non-NCAA team (Saint Xavier) and a team that is allowing nearly 53 points a game (Eastern Illinois).
The competition level soars this week for the Redbirds, who are ranked No. 15 in the FCS Coaches’ poll this week, with a visit to Colorado State of the FBS Mountain West Conference.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” ISU head coach Brock Spack said. “(Our players) see the size of the venue and the teams they’ve played. They know what they’re up against.”
The ISU roster includes several players who have competed in previous games against FBS teams, which lends some experience to this visit.
“We have a few guys on this team who were here in 2016 for (the win at) Northwestern,” he said. “We have a couple guys who were here in 2015 when we played Iowa. They’ve been through this. I really don’t say much. I just focus on us.”
The Redbirds have been a picture of production thus far with a big-play offense that features new quarterback Brady Davis (440 passing yards, five TDs) and its powerful combination of running backs James Robinson, Markel Smith and Jordan Birch, who are averaging a combined 194.5 points a game.
The defense’s calling card has been the ability to limit big plays. Opponents are averaging only 2.1 yards per rush and 3.7 yards per pass.
Coming off a bye week, Spack said his team paid specific attention to itself.
“We’re just focusing on trying to make ourselves a better team than the last time we took the field,” he said.
Three key matchups
- Illinois State DBs vs. WR Preston Williams: A Tennessee transfer, the 6-4 Williams has 36 receptions and three 100-yard games for the Rams (1-3).
- ISU running backs vs. CSU front seven: While playing two Southeastern Conference foes and one from the Pac-12, the Rams have allowed nearly 250 yards a game on the ground.
- CSU O-line vs. ISU D-line: Spack remarked this week about how young his defensive front is, with two freshman and four sophomores on the two-deep roster. CSU has three seniors and a junior along its offensive line.
Illinois State at Colorado State, 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. Game will air live on WJBC radio and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain.