MORGAN STATE (0-1) @ ILLINOIS STATE (0-1)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Site: Hancock Stadium, Normal, Ill.
Audio: WEAA 88.9 FM
Series: First meeting
What's at stake: The Bears play their first two games on the road for the third consecutive season, but unlike the previous two years, they will try to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole. Morgan State is seeking its first victory in the Prairie State and against a Missouri Valley Football Conference opponent. The Bears have lost all previous eight meetings against the MVFC. The task figures to be a difficult one against a Redbirds team that returns 11 starters from a squad that racked up a school-record 13 wins in 2014 and advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision championship game, where it lost to North Dakota State, 29-27, on Jan. 10. Illinois State, ranked fifth in the latest FCS coaches' poll, absorbed a 31-14 loss at Iowa last Saturday. The Redbirds are riding a 13-game winning streak at Hancock Stadium and have not lost a home opener during coach Brock Spack's seven-year tenure.
Key matchup: The Redbirds' ground game is paced by senior running back Marshaun Coprich, who led the FCS last season in rushing (2,274) and rushing touchdowns (27). Although Coprich was limited to just 32 yards on 13 carries against Iowa, he might find Saturday's matchup more inviting. Morgan State surrendered 394 yards and five touchdowns on the ground to Air Force in last Saturday's 63-7 thrashing. Although no Falcons player rushed for more than 82 yards, the Bears allowed 22 of Air Force's 29 first downs to be gained on the run.
Player to watch: Orlando Johnson is expected to make his second career start at running back, but the redshirt sophomore managed just two yards on four carries in Saturday's loss. Redshirt junior Lamont Brown III was only slightly better with 10 yards on eight attempts. Without junior Herb Walker Jr., who ran for a school-record 1,408 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns in 2014, the onus is on Johnson or Brown to seize the opportunity to spark the offense.