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‘Birds Primed for Potential FCS Run In Second Half

Written by on October 20, 2023

Image courtesy of Redbird Athletics

The Illinois State Redbirds football team is halfway through their 2023 campaign. Brock Spack and his
side currently hold a record of 4-2 and are 25th in the FCS rankings.

The Redbirds started off the season red-hot as they decimated Dayton and Western Illinois.
Then, Eastern Illinois edged out a close contest against ISU. After that, they would trounce
Lindenwood, just to get crushed by the number one ranked South Dakota State. To end off the
current run, the Redbirds hung 44 points on Indiana State.

Coach Spack and his offense have been electric this season. They’ve scored over 40 points
three times, which is already more than last season.

Senior Quarterback Zack Annexstad has led this fire powered offense. Annexstad has
completed 70% of his passes for 1,290 yards and nine touchdowns. Daniel
Sobkowicz, statistically his favorite target, has caught four of his touchdowns.

This rushing attack has been just as lethal. The two-headed duo of Mason Blakemore and Cole
Muller have caused problems for opposing defenses. This duo has combined for 675 yards and
11 touchdowns. Three other rushers, including Annexstad, have contributed four rushing
touchdowns as well.

The biggest worry heading into this season was defense. Majority of the starters left while the
offense retained their starters. The defense has exceeded expectations this season. Outside of
a South Dakota State masterclass; the best team in the nation, the Redbirds have not allowed
more than 18 points in a game. They also produced a shutout against Dayton and just one
touchdown against Indiana State.

The Redbirds are currently one spot out of the FCS playoffs. However, this team has all the
potential to make their first playoff appearance since 2019. The remaining five
teams on their schedule have a combined record of 14-16. Their last game on the schedule,
North Dakota State, is the only remaining ranked team on the schedule.

If the Redbirds continue to play well and stay in playoff contention, the North
Dakota State game will show how much potential the Redbirds have of competing seriously in
the playoffs.