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ISU football secures 11th game, will open renovated Hancock vs. Abilene Christian

(MCT) — NORMAL — The completion of Illinois State’s football schedule for the 2013 season brought good news and bad news Wednesday.

The Redbirds were finally able to secure an 11th game and a fifth home contest by scheduling Abilene Christian for the first game at newly renovated Hancock Stadium on Sept. 21.

However, Abilene Christian is transitioning from Division II to the Championship Subdivision and will not count as a Division I opponent for the Redbirds. Seven Division I victories are generally considered the minimum to be considered for an at-large playoff berth.

“Our preference would be a fully qualified FCS, but we weren’t able to find one at this time,” ISU executive associate athletic director Larry Lyons said. “We went with the best opponent we were able to find.”

ISU was put in a difficult situation when Southeast Missouri State pulled out of a scheduled game in Normal, leaving the Redbirds with six road and four home games.

And, ISU’s advancement to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs did little to encourage prospective opponents to schedule the Redbirds.

“It’s been tough to find an 11th game, which is kind of becoming the culture right now in FCS football,” ISU coach Brock Spack said.  “However, we are excited to add a good program like Abilene Christian to the schedule. They are typically a very skilled, fast team. We are going to have our hands full next season, and it’s going to be a very difficult schedule for us.”

Abilene Christian posted a 7-4 record in 2012 and went 4-4 in the Lone Star Conference. The Wildcats will be replacing standout senior quarterback Mitchell Gale, who set several school and conference passing records.

FCS programs are allowed to schedule 12 games in 2013, but Lyons does not expect the Redbirds to do so.

“We talked about looking into a 12-game schedule, and I’m not going to rule that out,” said Lyons. “But I don’t know how likely that would be at this point in time given the time it took us to get to 11 games.”

Other ISU home games for the coming season will feature Western Illinois on Oct. 5 for homecoming, Indiana State on Oct. 19, South Dakota on Oct. 26 and Northern Iowa on Nov. 2.

The Redbirds open their season Aug. 29 in Muncie, Ind., against Ball State of the Mid-American Conference. After an off week, ISU travels to Eastern Illinois on Sept. 14.

ISU’s Missouri Valley Football Conference road games are Sept. 28 at Missouri State, Oct. 12 at Youngstown State, Nov. 9 at two-time defending national champion North Dakota State and Nov. 16 at Southern Illinois.

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