(16) Illinois State (9-3) at (4) Eastern Washington (10-2)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 8, 6:05 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roos Field (8,600) - Cheney, Wash. Surface: SprinTurf (red). Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Trey Bender and Jay Taylor. Home Record: Illinois State 3-3; Eastern Washington 6-0. Road Record: Illinois State 6-0; Eastern Washington 4-2. Conference: Illinois State - Missouri Valley; Eastern Washington - Big Sky. Nicknames: Illinois State Redbirds; Eastern Washington Eagles. Sports Network FCS Rankings: Illinois State (16); Eastern Washington (4). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Illinois State (NS); Eastern Washington (2). Series Record: Illinois State (1-0). Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 1987 (Illinois State 31-14 at Eastern Washington). Head Coaches: Illinois State - Brock Spack (4th season, 28-17 at Illinois State and overall); Eastern Washington - Beau Baldwin (6th season, 43-18 at Eastern Washington, 53-21 overall). Playoff Records: Illinois State (4-3); Eastern Washington (10-7). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Illinois State 3 (1998-99, 2006); Eastern Washington 8 (1985, 92, 97, 2004-05, 07, 2009-10, National Champion in 2010). Current Playoff Streak: Illinois State has lost two of its last three playoff games; Eastern Washington has won its last five playoff games.
GAME NOTES: In a quarterfinal matchup between two teams which mirror each other in many ways, the Illinois State Redbirds head to Eastern Washington to play the Eagles on their red turf field.
Illinois State won in dramatic fashion last week at Appalachian State, 38-37, thanks to a blocked extra point to end overtime. The Redbirds improved to 6-0 on the road this season and are led by senior quarterback Matt Brown and a very underrated defense.
Brown threw for five touchdowns in the win last week, and in 12 games he's completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,998 yards and 25 touchdowns, one shy of a new ISU single-season record. His favorite receiver, Tyrone Walker, has totaled 81 catches for 1,171 yards and eight touchdowns, and running back Darrelynn Dunn averages 83 yards per game on the ground and scored 12 touchdowns in 11 games.
Eastern Washington has the FCS' ninth-ranked passing offense with 301 yards per game and quarterback Kyle Padron made just his second start of the season last week. He has plenty of experience and in the last two games, he's thrown for three touchdowns for 708 yards and completed 71 percent of his passes. Padron is expected to be the starter this week, but don't be surprised if redshirt freshman Vernon Adams sees playing time as well.
Illinois State's passing defense ranks ninth in the FCS in passing efficiency with a 105.73 rating. The Redbirds have 16 interceptions in 12 games and defensive back Ben Ericksen leads the FCS with seven interceptions.
Colton Underwood, Mike Zimmer and Shelby Harris headline an athletic defensive group which averages 3.2 sacks per game, good for fifth in the FCS. The trio has accounted for 20 sacks in 12 games this season.
Eastern Washington is 6-0 at home this season and the team is 16-2 all-time playing at Roos Field since its famous red turf was installed in 2010.
Receiver Brandon Kaufman is a game-changer. He's hauled in 75 receptions for 1,444 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and is just 81 yards shy of setting a new Big Sky single-season record. Watch out for EWU's talented receiving corps versus the ISU stingy secondary.
The Eagles' air attack will certainly be tested this week, so expect running backs Demitrius Bronson and Quincy Forte to try provide some stability on the ground. Each back has 115 carries and averages 45 and 38 rushing yards per game, respectively, but once in the red zone, coach Beau Baldwin expects more from his backfield.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 34, Illinois State 30.
12/05 14:21:17 ET