Coach Brock Spack leads his ISU team against Southern Illinois on Saturday at Hancock Stadium. (You Name It Sports/B Corbin)
By Bryan Bloodworth
NORMAL - Illinois State football coach Brock Spack was happy with last week's 34-31 Missouri Valley Conference victory at South Dakota.
But he was still carrying a bad taste in his mouth Tuesday at his weekly news conference.
"We found a way to win that game, but we didn't play our best," said Spack, whose team improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1967. "I thought we should have put them away in the third quarter. But we found ways on both sides of the ball, in all phases of our game, to keep them in the game. We gave up big plays on defense and had penalties on offense."
Spack, who also serves as the team's defensive coordinator, was extremely upset with his unit after ISU had taken a 10-point lead late in the game. The defense allowed South Dakota to drive 70-yards for a score after Nick Aussieker had kicked a 42-yard field goal.
"To give up that drive made me very, very angry," Spack continued. "When the game was on the line we stepped up three times and stopped them. We get the turnover and kick the field goal, then we relaxed. We gave up 70 or 80 yards of their total offense on that last drive. Championship defenses don't play that way."
Spack hopes the Redbirds learned their lesson from the experience.
"That game came at a great time for us," added Spack. "It was a great learning experience for us. These guys say they want to be a great team. Great teams don't do that. We'll be better this Saturday. If we're not I'll be really disappointed."
The Redbirds, who have a 16-3 mark at home under Spack, meet Southern Illinois in a 1 p.m. homecoming game at Hancock Stadium in Missouri Valley Conference action. ISU leads the league with a 2-0 record. Southern Illinois is 1-1 in the conference and 2-3 overall.
It also marks the first time in three weeks ISU has played at home and starts a stretch of three straight games at Hancock Stadium.
"We're excited to be back home," said Spack. "I think our student body and the community is excited about our football team and that makes me very happy because these guys have worked very, very hard to get in this position."
ISU senior linebacker Austin Davis, who returned to action at South Dakota after missing three weeks with a broken thumb, said the Redbirds are anxious to face the Salukis.
"One of our goals this season is to beat all the in-state schools," said Davis, a Normal Community product. "We have never done that with Coach. We want to win the start championship."
ISU aleady holds victories over Eastern and Western Illinois.
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at email@example.com