NORMAL — One of the last Redbirds to leave the Hancock Stadium turf, Jared Barnett tossed several post-practice passes Tuesday.

Although seemingly confident in both his rollouts and his throws, the effects of a second-quarter hit last Saturday were still being felt by the Illinois State quarterback.

“It’s really tight and hurting a little bit,” said Barnett, who left the loss to Eastern Illinois with back spasms. “It’s really sore. The only thing that helps it is heat. I can’t keep it heated all day long. But if I can get it heated and stay warm then I’ll be fine.”

It is that uncertainty that has ISU coach Brock Spack calling Barnett “day to day” and the starter for Saturday’s 6 p.m. home opener against Abilene Christian “probably a gametime decision.”

Blake Winkler replaced Barnett against Eastern and worked with the first team offense Tuesday.

“We’ll see how Jared is feeling and go from there,” Spack said. “I was pleased with how Blake played.”

Barnett was motionless on the turf in Charleston for a couple minutes before being helped off the field.

“I got hit in the middle of the back and felt kind of a shoot (of pain) go down my legs,” said the junior. “I was trying to sit up and couldn’t sit up. They told me it was spasming.”

Regrouping defense: After surrendering 50 or more points in the initial two games of the season for the first time in program history, the 0-2 Redbirds believe better defensive days are ahead.

“It left a really sour taste in our mouth. But I think it kind of fired us up,” linebacker Pat Meehan said. “What we’re doing right now is we’re going to flush the first two games. We’re starting a new season right now.

“It’s kind of funky. At times we’ve showed a great defense. We need to work on the little things so we can keep a solid defense every single play.”

Safety Ezra Thompson acknowledges losses of 51-28 to Ball State and 57-24 to Eastern Illinois “were a little bit rough. We have a nine-game season ahead of us. I would definitely say we have a chip on our shoulder, maybe a bigger chip to prove to everybody we’re not a pushover team.”

Spack believes better ball control on offense would have helped hold down the opposition’s scoring.

“When you give up 50 points, it’s a team effort,” he said. “It’s not just one side of the football.”

Abilene can score: Spack admits evaluating 3-0 Abilene Christian is difficult.

The Wildcats have scored 196 points and given up 51 but the opposition in three home games has been less than stellar — Division II programs New Mexico Highlands and McMurry, and Concordia (Ala.) of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.

“They are a very athletic team with a strong tradition of winning,” said Spack. “They are a very good team offensively.”

Abilene Christian is transitioning from Division II to the FCS level and will play a full Southland Conference schedule next season.

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