TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s 17-14 victory over then-No. 1 North Dakota State last Saturday was unquestionably a crowning achievement for the Sycamores’ football program.
It’s also unquestionably over.
Though the victory over the Bison is the defining moment of the season so far, ISU does not want that to be the case by season’s end.
The Sycamores still have a Missouri Valley Football Conference championship to potentially chase down as well as a Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot. To get too caught in the victory over the Bison is to put those aspirations in jeopardy.
“Our focus is on bigger things. It’s good we beat the No. 1 team, but our eyes are on bigger goals,” ISU linebacker Jacolby Washington said.
As ISU prepares to travel to struggling Western Illinois this Saturday, the time-worn concept of the “trap game” — and how to avoid it — was bantered about at Wednesday’s practice. The Sycamores didn’t need much to remind them of the concept.
Its even been suggested that NDSU got caught in the “trap” when ISU beat the Bison one week after NDSU hammered Youngstown State 48-7 on Oct. 6.
ISU coach Trent Miles won’t acknowledge that Saturday’s matchup with the Leathernecks even qualifies as a “trap game” despite WIU’s 3-3 overall and 1-2 MVFC record.
History is Miles’ guide. ISU hasn’t won in Macomb, Ill. since 1996 and the Sycamores were humbled 40-7 in their last visit there in 2010.
“To me a trap game is where you’re supposed to show up and win and you’re still emotionally high off the last victory,” Miles said. “To me, we’re playing an excellent team, that plays good defense and can move the ball with a really good receiver. We haven’t won there since 1996. That’s not a trap game, that’s a game where you play your best to have a chance in the fourth quarter.”
Washington stressed ISU’s losing streak at Western Illinois. It is similar to ISU’s long losing streak against Southern Illinois that ended with a victory on Sept. 29. ISU hopes to follow the same script.
“We want to check it off our bucket list. Our goal is to win there. Each week is a bigger game and this one is no different,” Washington said.
Miles has been happy with the Sycamores’ practice demeanor this week, but of course, he nor anyone else will know if ISU won’t passed the test of handling success until Saturday’s game commences.
“I think we’ve had a good week of practice. We’re executing well, we’re riding the momentum. At the same time, these are still young guys. You don’t know what’s going on in their brain. We’ll know Saturday. They know how important this game is,” Miles said.
n Get a leg up — For the last four Wednesdays, ISU has ended practice with an unusual competition between offensive and defensive units.
Players lie down on their backs on the Memorial Stadium turf, feet-to-feet. Players must keep their feet six inches off the ground without bending their knees. A unit loses when one of its players’ feet touches the ground first … and the punishment for losing is too terrible to ponder.
The offensive line competes against the defensive line, linebackers go toe-to-toe (literally) against the running backs, while wide receivers battle the defensive backs.
Miles started doing the exercise in the week prior to the Southern Illinois game. The Sycamores haven’t lost since.
“It’s just a team competition deal to compete against each other, but also show unity. We don’t want anyone to be the weak link and let their teammates down without running their legs off,” Miles explained.
On Wednesday, ISU’s linebackers, offensive line and defensive backs came out on the losing end. As a result, they had to do linked push-ups in which five-a-side did push-ups while linked to their teammates’ feet and shoulders.
All for a boisterous audience comprised of the units that won.
“What it does is that it brings toughness to us. We have to be physically and mentally tough. You have to overcome all the pain and think about not letting your teammates down,” Washington said.
n Spencer out 6-8 weeks — X-rays provided bad news for ISU starting wide receiver Donald Spencer after he was injured against the Bison. His right foot is broken, and according to Miles, Spencer will miss 6-to-8 weeks.
By that time table, the earliest Spencer could return would be the first weekend of December. The second round of the FCS playoffs take place that weekend.
Tanner Riley will likely take Spencer’s spot in the starting lineup.
ISU’s remaining schedule
• Saturday — at Western Illinois (3-3, 1-2), 7 p.m.
• Oct. 27 — South Dakota (1-5, 0-3), 2 p.m.
• Nov. 3 — Illinois State (6-1, 3-1), 2 p.m.
• Nov. 17 — at Youngstown State (4-2, 1-2), 2 p.m.