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
Etherington, Moore happy to be with ISU basketball
Not even two weeks into their college experience, Indiana State freshmen men’s basketball players Alex Etherington and Demetrius Moore stood sentinel as 115 kids ran around them collecting basketballs and getting autographs at the Greg Lansing Basketball Camp on Thursday.
ISU's Johnson invited to World University Games
Indiana State senior Felisha Johnson will be traveling the world this summer after being named to represent the United States in the women’s shot put at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
Q&A: ISU football coach Mike Sanford ready for fall
It’s hard to believe, but Mike Sanford has already been Indiana State’s football coach for six months.
Time flies, but Sanford’s task of preparing for his first season in charge of the Sycamores comes with few breaks.
Rex streak ends at 7
The Terre Haute Rex table setters — Kyle Kempf and Tyler Wampler — had three of the team’s eight hits Friday at Bob Warn Field, but the Rex offense found itself in a big early deficit for the first time this season.
Manaea’s selection puts ISU in spotlight
Once the stress and hang-wringing over where Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea might get drafted was over, the angst subsided and was replaced with a happier emotion. Pride.
ISU’s Hope places 13th in NCAA pole vault
Indiana State senior Nicole Hope concluded her final competition of the 2013 outdoor season on Friday as she tied for 13th in the women’s pole vault at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Metro roundup: Former Sycamores take talents to CFL
Former Indiana State players Johnny Towalid and Justin Hilton were signed by teams in the Canadian Football League this week.
Exit Minnesota, enter Oregon State on 2016 football schedule
When the Big Ten Conference implemented a nine-game football schedule starting in 2016 and discouraged members from playing Football Championship Subdivision teams, there was one game on Indiana State’s future schedule that was likely on borrowed time.
ISU’s scheduled game at Minnesota in 2016.
ISU's Manaea selected 34th overall by Royals
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea selected 34th overall by the Kansas City Royals.
ISU's Manaea is mystery man of MLB Draft
There is no consensus as to where Manaea might be drafted. Some experts still have him being chosen among the top 20 picks. Some don’t have him being picked in the first round at all.
ISU's Johnson, Wise compete at NCAA nationals
Indiana State's Felisha Johnson and Katie Wise competed at the NCAA Track an Field Nationals at the University of Oregon.
Sycamores ready for more NCAA track success
Five of the six Indiana State athletes in Eugene, Ore., already have had some memorable track and field careers for the Sycamores.
But they’ll go ahead and try to add to their list of accomplishments in the NCAA outdoor championships this weekend.
Dustin Betz has been a scorer and key piece of eight Missouri Valley Conference championship teams between track and cross country. He’ll compete today in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as the Sycamores’ second best in the event behind Jordan Fife.
Mike Lucas joins ISU football staff
What traits do head football coaches seek out when they hire position coaches?
Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford provided insight into that question as he hired former Southeast Louisiana head coach Mike Lucas to his staff Tuesday. Lucas will be the Sycamores’ defensive line coach.
“You have to look at your staff and see what you need. I felt like in this particular case, I wanted an experienced defensive line coach. I feel like we have a mixture of experience and youth and I want to keep that going,” Sanford said.
Sycamores bow out of MVC Tournament
Indiana State’s baseball was out of pitching, and after a loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Sycamores were out of second-chances too at the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament. What the Sycamores weren’t out of was heart, guts and clutch performances from some unlikely sources. But in the end, Friday’s elimination game rematch against the Shockers was a sampling of ISU’s season overall — the Sycamores were out of luck.
Four Indiana State athletes advance to NCAA outdoor track and field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman have punched their tickets to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore., with their Friday efforts in the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
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 sending largest group yet to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
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.
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- Etherington, Moore happy to be with ISU basketball