Consecutive losses, last six quarters amplify Spack's concerns during bye week

Freshman quarterback Jackson Waring (14) has started the last two games for Illinois State. (photo courtesy goredbirds.com)

Illinois State head coach Brock Spack said his staff will focus on getting his team back on track as well as recruiting during the Redbirds’ bye week.

“We have a pretty good system we’ve employed over the years on bye weeks,” Spack said during Tuesday’s media address. “I like where our bye week has come this year.”

The off week falls just short of the official halfway mark of the ISU schedule. The Redbirds are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, having lost in consecutive weeks to nationally ranked foes Southern Illinois and Missouri State.

“There’s no doubt we need to get better,” Spack said. “The last six quarters have not been great football, particularly defensively it hasn’t been great.”

ISU has been outscored 76-20 in those last six quarters, which includes losing a 17-0 halftime lead that resulted in a 35-17 defeat at SIU.

“We know who we are and what we need to do,” Spack said. “This week has been spent on trying to correct some things either schematically as coaches or technically by coaches.”

QB & injury updates

Freshman Jackson Waring has started the last two games at quarterback for the Redbirds.

The Ankeny, Iowa product replaced the injured Bryce Jefferson against Eastern Illinois Sept. 18. ISU won that game 31-24.

Waring has completed 38-of-62 passes (61.3 percent) for 521 yards. He has twice run for TDs.

“Our passing game is getting better,” Spack said.

Waring threw for a career-high 318 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri State. However, he also threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.

Brock Spack (photo courtesy goredbirds.com)

“Our quarterback didn’t make the greatest decisions, one was really bad,” Spack said of the turnovers. “It was a typical freshman throw.”

Spack indicated that Jefferson should be ready to play for ISU’s next game on Oct. 16 when North Dakota State comes to Hancock Stadium.

The dual-threat Jefferson has two touchdown passes and two touchdowns rushes on the season. He completed 18-of-39 passes (46.2 percent) for 253 yards before injuring his right shoulder against Eastern.

Tight end Mitchell Lewis was lost for the season after sustaining a knee injury following a hit on his touchdown reception against Missouri State.

Lewis, a Naperville North High School graduate, had three catches for 20 yards on the season.

Woeful special teams

One of the most disappointing aspects of the Redbirds’ season has been the play on special teams.

ISU has suffered two blocked punts and a long kickoff return that helped ignite Southern Illinois’ second-half rally.

“We have to get better,” Spack said. “That’s inexcusable. That’s on them (the players).”

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