Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Iowa vs. Illinois State to kickoff 2015 season on Saturday

Iowa City, IA -- The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-6) are coming off a disappointing 2014 season, closing out the season on a three game losing streak. Iowa's opponent, the Illinois State Redbirds (13-2) are coming off their most successful season in program history. The Redbirds lost to North Dakota State 29-27 in the FCS Championship Game to close out 2014. The game will kickoff at 11 a.m. on the Big Ten Network.

The Redbirds and the Hawkeyes have never met on the gridiron.  

Illinois State has played several Big Ten Conference opponents in the past, but is 0-7 in those contests. The last time the Redbirds faced a Big Ten foe was in 2010, at Northwestern (37-3).

Unlike fellow MVfC members, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa; Illinois State has never defeated a Power 5 FBS program. The Redbirds are 6-35 against FBS programs, with there last win at Eastern Michigan 31-14, during the 2012 season.

The Redbirds last visit to a FBS program was during the 2013 season, when Illinois State opened at Ball State, a 52-28 defeat. The Redbirds went on to finish 5-6 and lost every road game. Of course, the Redbirds rebounded in 2014.

Iowa is 12-0 vs. FCS programs. Saturday's contest may be Iowa's toughest FCS opponent match up though. Last year, Iowa opened the 2014 season, against Northern Iowa, with a 31-23 win.

Kirk Ferentz Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz news conference transcript Link

Illinois State is ranked second in the preseason FCS poll and is picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference. #1 North Dakota State lost at Montana 38-35 on Saturday, as the four-time defending champion falls to open season.

Brock Spack
Illinois State head coach
Brock Spack (46-26),
entering his seventh season.
Coach Brock Spack shared at his press conference he has great respect for Iowa's Kinnick Stadium and the "fun" venue the University of Iowa has ... "they appreciate good football" talking about the up close fans. Iowa is a typical, "physical football" team. Both teams have new starters on both fronts, especially the tackles on offense and defense.

"It will be a good game to see where we are at," said Coach Spack. They are piping in crowd noise at there practices, in preparation for Iowa. Playing load music, as well.

It will not be a lot different than the FCS Championship Game, but 50,000 more ...

A new dynamic duo has emerged for the Redbirds in quarterback Tre Roberson and running back Marshaun Coprich, who shattered single season marks and re-wrote the record books in 2014. 

Roberson and Coprich were each named to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List and both will look to improve upon staggering numbers from last season.  Roberson amassed 4,250 yards of total offense and accounted for 41 touchdowns in his first season at ISU, and Coprich led the FCS in rushing yards with 2,274 and touchdowns with 27.

Redbirds Set to open 2015 Season against Iowa
Illinois State senior QB 5
Tre Roberson is making
2nd appearance against
Iowa. First since 2011,
when he played for IU.
Roberson made his first college football start, as a true freshman in 2011, while at Indiana. Iowa defeated Indiana 45-24.

When Redbird quarterback Tre Roberson steps foot in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, it won't be foreign territory for the ISU signal-caller.  Roberson previous started for Indiana when the Hoosiers visited Kinnick Stadium in 2011. Roberson rushed 15 times for 82 yards, and was 16-of-24 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown, but his effort was not enough, as the Hawkeyes downed the Hoosiers, 45-24. Linebacker Reggie Spearman is also very familiar with the Hawkeyes' home turf, having played 21 games for Iowa over two seasons before transferring to Illinois State this Spring.

Programs at the FCS level often rely on transfers from FBS programs, and the Redbirds have had several players transfer from Big Ten programs.  Quarterback Tre Roberson and defensive lineman David Kenney each transferred from Indiana, defensive end David "Boom" Perkins came from Ohio State and the most recent addition, linebacker Reggie Spearman, makes his return to Iowa Saturday.
Kenney and Perkins never played against Iowa. 

Illinois State head coach Brock Spack spent most of his coaching career at the FBS level and much of that time was spent in the Big Ten at Purdue as defensive coordinator from 1997-2008.  In six seasons as head coach at ISU, Spack has posted a 1-3 record against FBS foes with a pair of losses in 2009 and 2010 to Illinois and Northwestern, respectively.  He helped the Redbirds pick up their first win over an FBS foe in over 20 years with a win at Eastern Michigan in 2012 and the Redbirds dropped their most recent contest against an FBS foe to Ball State in 2013.
Pat Meehan
Illinois State Senior MLB 33 Pat Meehan (6-1 225) leads the Redbirds defense.
Illinois State Game Captains for 2015
Being voted a captain by your peers is perhaps one of the best shows of respect a collegiate football player can receive.  After fall camp was concluded, the Redbirds selected senior quarterback Tre Roberson, senior safety and special teams standout Soniel Estime and senior middle linebacker Pat Meehan as their captains for the 2015 season.  They will be joined each game by another senior voted on each week by the coaching staff.

Iowa Game Captains for Illinois State
Captains for this week, and the leadership group selects those guys weekly,we have Drew Ott,Jordan Lomax on the defensive side, and on the offensive side, Austin Blythe and C.J. Beathard. Those four guys will represent the football team, Coach Ferentz announced at his press conference.

Family Reunion on Saturday
Iowa junior quarterback C.J. Beathard is the nephew of Illinois State offensive coordinator Kurt Beathard. Beathard is making his second career start in the 2015 season opener. He made his first career start at Purdue, in last year's Big Ten road opener, leading the Hawkeyes to a 24-10 win.

Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker (left) and offensive coordinator
Greg Davis (right) are each entering their fourth season as coordinators.
Parker is the longest tenured assistant with Ferentz at Iowa, since 1999.

Iowa opens the 2015 season without its 2014 leader in passing yards (Jake Rudock, 2,436), rushing yards (Mark Weisman, 812) or receptions (Kevonte Martin-Manley, 52). It is the first time since 2004 that Iowa opens the season without a returning statistical leader in at least one of those categories (2003: QB Nathan Chandler, RB Fred Russell, WR Ramon Ochoa). Iowa and Maryland are the only Big Ten schools without a returning leader in at least one of those statistical categories. The Hawkeyes do return their 2014 leader in receiving yards. WR Tevaun Smith caught a career-high 43 passes for a career-best 596 yards in 2014. Iowa also lost its top two tacklers, SS John Lowdermilk (103) and MLB Quinton Alston (94), to graduation.

Many who follow the Iowa program have high confidence in the new starters, who will lead Iowa. The 2004 season was a very positive season for the Hawkeyes under Coach Ferentz. Iowa has a very favorable schedule, as does Big Ten West rival, Wisconsin, who are the defending division champs.

Iowa sophomores MLB Josey Jewell and SS Miles Taylor will be starting in 2015. Jewell started the final four games at WLB and lead the Iowa defense in tackles in the lost to Tennessee 45-28. in the TaxSlayer bowl game.

Iowa junior RB LeShun Daniels is on the top of Iowa’s depth chart and is expected to make his first career start in the 2015 season opener. Daniels has 184 career rushing yards on 50 carries. 

Daniels in 3-2-1: 
• Missed the final five regular season games in 2014 due to injury and saw limited action in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, rushing one time for seven yards.
• He is Iowa’s eighth different opening day starting running back since 2007. 

Scored his only career touchdown in Iowa’s 2014 season opener against Northern Iowa, on the opening drive of the season. 

Iowa RB Jordan Canzeri (SR., 5-9, 192)
Career Games Played/Starts: 29/2
Senior RB Jordan Canzeri ranked second on the team with 752 all-purpose yards in 2014, including 494 yards rushing, 123 yards receiving, and 135 yards in kickoff returns. He was the only player on the team with 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving. He will be the #2 RB to open the 2015 season for Iowa.

Canzeri in 3-2-1:
• Has 1,089 career rushing yards, one of 45 players in program history with 1,000 career rushing yards. 
• Rushed for a team-high 120 yards on 12 carries against Tennessee in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. Had a game-high 148 all-purpose yards in the bowl game, adding two catches for 13 yards and returning one kickoff 15 yards. 
• 212 yards on 41 carries (5.2 ypc) in three postseason games (2011 Insight, 2014 Outback, 2015 TaxSlayer).

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