FARGO, N.D. —
There are few things more challenging in any sport than to hold the lead on the road against a good team. It’s why road upsets are so rare.
The script is usually the same: The road team takes lead into the stretch run, something goes wrong, and the home team gets momentum and ultimately carries the day.
That seemed to be the path Indiana State was destined to follow against top-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday.
After Johnny Towalid’s second interception return on the second play of the final stanza put the Sycamores up 11, the Bison stormed back. A quick scoring drive resulted in a Brock Jensen touchdown and 2-point conversion to slice ISU’s lead to three.
Tanner Fritschle missed a field goal and NDSU had 5:52 left in the game to try and take the lead. After a pair of pass interference penalties helped NDSU get to the ISU 29, it seemed it wouldn’t take that long.
But the Sycamores didn’t flinch. And the lack of panic in the face of adversity characterized ISU’s 17-14 victory over the defending national champions as much as its forced turnovers did.
The calm in the face of trouble was best exemplified by the defense just after NDSU got to the ISU 29.
ISU’s defense twice had quarterback Jensen confused. He took a shot into the end zone on first down that resulted in an incomplete pass, despite having his tight end open over the middle.
On the next play, Jensen missed his open tight end again and paid a heavier price. ISU safety Larry King picked Jensen off at the 19 and returned it to the 30 with 3:42 left.
“We talk about the defense and their swagger. They have a lot of confidence. The coaches do a great job keeping them confident and understanding what to do to make any corrections and not panic. There’s no panic in us,” ISU coach Trent Miles said.
ISU’s players have a way of dealing with the drama of the moment.
“Adversity is going to come every game. We stick together. We tell each, ‘Clear minds … next play.’ We always communicate that to each other,” ISU cornerback Calvin Burnett said.
ISU’s offense had a job to do, too. With 3:42 left, it managed to keep the ball for most of the time left. NDSU didn’t get it back until there was 17 seconds to go.
ISU running back Shakir Bell had respect for NDSU’s passionate fans. Not only had he played in ISU’s previous game in the Fargodome, but he saw the Bison fans in Frisco, Texas, last season when he was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award and NDSU was playing in the FCS championship game.
“I saw NDSU fans down in Texas. They’re amazing. They come in numbers. We could barely hear ourselves think, but we took it one play at a time. We knew we couldn’t give up on ourselves whether we were winning big or losing big. We’re fighters,” Bell said.
• Secondary holds own — ISU was able to force three turnovers against the usually sturdy Jensen and there wasn’t much in the way of gimmick coverages by the secondary.
ISU was able to be opportunistic primarily out of its base defense and coverages.
“Coming into the week, we told our [defensive backs] coach [Mike] Mickens and [defensive coordinator] Jesse Minter to put nine in the box. Leave me and Calvin on an island. He had a belief in us that we could cover anyone in the nation. We came out and I guess we did a good job,” Towalid said.
ISU tends to stick with corners Burnett and Towalid to go with safeties King and Donovan Layne. Mark Sewall spells Layne or joins him in some nickel coverages.
Miles said ISU did different things from different personnel groups, but kept it basic.
Towalid’s first interception of two occurred with 10:31 left in the second quarter and it didn’t hurt the Sycamores’ confidence.
“The first score that Johnny had? That’s all we needed to get our energy up. As soon as he crossed that goal line, we all had our fists up. We were feeling it. To hear the crowd go silent? That’s what we came out to do. The second one [by Towalid] was just icing on the cake,” King said.
• Bell goes down again — For the third consecutive game, Bell had to be helped off the field with an injury.
Bell had to be tended to by the ISU athletic training staff with 2:07 left in the game after he lost two yards on a run. He walked off the field under his own power and had the right side of his neck on ice on the ISU sideline for the remainder of the contest.
“Everything’s fine. I was trying to get to the outside and I hit one of their players and someone came and got me from the back. I was facing down flat to the ground and I landed on my neck wrong,” Bell explained. “I have mobility in my neck. I’m sore, but I’ll be good. My neck felt a lot better when I saw the clock go zero.”
Bell gained 96 rushing yards on 26 carries and had two catches for 15 yards.
• Crazy Saturday — ISU claimed the biggest FCS victim on Saturday, but NDSU had plenty of company in its high-ranked misery.
Four of the top five FCS teams in the Sports Network poll lost.
No. 2 Montana State, also previously unbeaten, fell to No. 6 Eastern Washington 27-24 in a battle of Big Sky Conference stalwarts. In the Colonial Athletic Association, Villanova bumped off No. 3 Old Dominion 38-14. In the Southern Conference, No. 5 Wofford lost 17-9 to No. 7 Georgia Southern.
The rest of the MVFC was far from immune from the wackiness. No. 8 Youngstown State blew a 21-point lead at Illinois State and lost to the Redbirds 35-28. Unranked Southern Illinois likely dealt Northern Iowa’s playoff hopes a death blow with a 34-31 victory in Carbondale. Further down the standings, Missouri State won its first game as it wiped out a 21-point deficit to beat South Dakota 27-24.
South Dakota State has first place in the MVFC to itself after the Jackrabbits defeated Western Illinois 31-10 in Brookings, S.D.
Towalid, Underwood feted by MVC
• ISU defensive back Johnny Towalid and defensive end Connor Underwood received MVFC Player of the Week awards.
Towalid was named Defensive Player of the Week after his two-interception, two-touchdown performance against NDSU.
Underwood was named Newcomer of the Week as he had 10 tackles and sacked NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen twice.
FARGO, N.D. —
There are few things more challenging in any sport than to hold the lead on the road against a good team. It’s why road upsets are so rare.
- Indiana State University
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU's athletic treasure trove
Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
Indiana State to host 2014 MVC baseball tourney
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
Behind 16 hits and Manaea's pitching, ISU beats Bradley
Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
Metro roundup: ISU hands out spring awards
The Indiana State University athletic community, along with family, friends and fans, paused Tuesday night to honor the spring sports teams at the Terre Haute Savings Bank Spring Sports Banquet.
Most of the ISU teams are still in competition with the baseball team having 13 games left of its regular-season schedule before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 21, the softball team with just three games left of the docket this coming weekend against Southern Illinois and the track and field program with just one more meet before beginning its postseason events.
The ISU women’s golf team is the team that has ended at this time, with the group recording a sixth-place finish at the MVC championships one week ago.
Indiana State loses 2 in MVC softball
Indiana State aspired to upset Illinois State to get at least a doubleheader split in Missouri Valley Conference softball Thursday at Price Field as the Sycamores opened an eight-game season-ending homestand.
Paige Schreiner hit a two-run blast over the left-field fence in the fifth inning and junior Shelby Wilson delivered a sizzling RBI triple down the right-field line in the sixth as ISU ended the day playing well against the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The result was still a 5-3 loss to the Redbirds (26-18, 11-6 Missouri Valley Conference) as freshman Halle Humphrey gave up four runs in the first two innings. Humphrey, called upon to pitch the opener as well — she’s the only full-time pitcher remaining on the team — gave up six runs and eight hits as the Sycamores dropped a 6-1 game to start the day.
ISU, MVFC brace for change at FCS football level
It seemed so far-fetched.
Internet rumors circulated that Indiana State had been approached by the Sun Belt Conference to bring the Sycamores’ football team into the Sun Belt’s fold.
The Sun Belt is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Bowl football. Big boy football … and all it entails.
ISU football in good spirits after healthy Spring Game
Was Saturday afternoon’s weather an omen for Indiana State football as the Sycamores wrapped up spring practice with the annual Blue-White Game at Memorial Stadium? After several practices conducted in less-than-perfect conditions, they’d like to think so.
Loyola ready to take big step
Loyola University and the Missouri Valley Conference took their first steps together Friday and the MVC is hoping the Ramblers don’t have to take too many baby steps before they become a competitive part of the conference.
Sanford wraps up first spring with ISU
The final day of Indiana State football’s first Mike Sanford experience is upon the Sycamores.
Lansing excited about Etherington's signing with Sycamores
The spring signing period for men’s basketball is usually a time to use available scholarships to load up on junior college additions and transfers.
To find a diamond-in-the-rough at the high school level who can give you four years? That’s harder to come by.
Creighton sweep puts ISU in thick of things
In a difficult early-season Missouri Valley Conference schedule, Indiana State took its lumps. Unenviable back-to-back trips to contenders Missouri State and Wichita State had ISU reeling with five straight MVC losses eight days ago.
Second City in the Valley: Loyola joins the MVC
For the first time in its history, the Missouri Valley Conference will have a home in the Second City.
The Chicago Tribune confirmed Saturday via a Loyola University source that the Ramblers will replace Creighton as the MVC’s 10th team. Loyola — a member of the Horizon League — will join the MVC effective July 1.
Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman — who was part of the MVC search committee that scouted potential replacements for Creighton — confirmed Sunday that the Ramblers were in the MVC loop.
Sycamore baseball holds off Creighton rally
By his own estimation, Indiana State baseball coach Rick Heller has been involved in close to 2,000 baseball games. If anyone has seen it all on the field, he’d be as good a candidate as any.
Devin Moore pitches gem in 6-1 victory over Creighton
A hip injury suffered by Indiana State ace starting pitcher Sean Manaea shuffled the Sycamores’ starting rotation for the second weekend running as it opened a Missouri Valley Conference home series against Creighton on Friday.
Sanford gets 2nd look at Sycamores
In the immediate aftermath of a practice, game, or in Friday’s case for Indiana State, a scrimmage, most football coaches defer to the film to paint a true picture of what was and wasn’t done. ISU coach Mike Sanford is no different. With the flurry of activity on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to get a true evaluation of anything watching it live.
ISU center FN Lutz glad to be back in the middle of things
For someone who missed an entire season due to a knee injury, Indiana State center FN Lutz has certainly kept himself visible since then.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU's Brandon Pounds the top collegian in Sea Ray relays
Indiana State senior Brandon Pounds was the top collegian in the men’s hammer throw and fellow senior Felisha Johnson opened up the Sycamores’ three-day competition at the University of Tennessee’s Sea Ray relays with a second-place finish in the women’s hammer throw.
Stealing records: ISU softball’s offense gaining momentum
The Indiana State softball offense is no juggernaut, but the fog may be clearing on a program that has had a long history of struggles with few signs of consistent winning.
Explosive, dedicated athletes like Morgan Allee and Megan Stone are two reasons to believe this group of Sycamores can spark a turnaround.
The Sycamores are scoring an average of 3.1 runs per game while also ranking in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference pack in hits and batting average. But the Sycamores are on pace to break the school record for on-base percentage as they lead the MVC in walks, hit-by-pitches, sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.
Allee, with 17 regular-season games to go, broke the school record for stolen bases in a season Tuesday against IUPUI and is among the 10 best in the NCAA. Her total of 30 makes up almost half of ISU’s 74.
“I’m so big [that] they think I won’t go. It works out well,” the stocky shortstop said.
ISU’s QB battle
Quarterback battles come in all shapes and sizes, but one could forgive Indiana State’s Mike Perish, Robert Tonyan Jr. and Trent Lancaster if they feel a bit more beleaguered than your average signal-caller.
Not only is the trio fighting for the right to be named ISU’s starter by the Sycamores’ football opener Aug. 29 at Indiana University, but all three also are trying to learn a new offense, they’re acclimating themselves to new coach Mike Sanford’s different way of running things, and they’re trying to maintain harmony amongst each other, so whoever the ultimate winner is can effectively lead the team without angst.
All of it is playing out during ISU’s spring practice, and so far, none of the quarterback candidates have separated themselves from the pack.
Sycamores wrap up season sweep of Purdue in baseball
Jordan Pearson went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and all nine position starters for the Indiana State baseball team recorded at least one hit, leading the Sycamores to a 10-5 victory and a season sweep of Purdue in front of 679 fans Tuesday at Bob Warn Field.
ISU claimed its second consecutive game and improved to 14-13 overall, while Purdue dropped to 11-19. The Sycamores are 4-1 against the Big Ten Conference this season after sweeping their two-game series with the Boilermakers and winning two out of three at Minnesota in mid-March.
ISU and Purdue combined for nine runs over the first three innings as the Sycamores took a 5-4 lead. Pearson (single), Mike Fitzgerald (single), Tyler Wampler (one-run single), Landon Curry (single) and Cody Zimmerman (two-run single) tallied five consecutive hits with one out in the bottom of the second inning as ISU scored four runs in the frame.
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