News From Terre Haute, Indiana

College

September 15, 2012

ISU, Drake both want a statement win

TERRE HAUTE — Today’s football matchup at Memorial Stadium between Indiana State and Drake presents the opportunity for a statement game.

Sure it does, you might be thinking to yourself — for the non-scholarship Bulldogs.

Think again.

There’s a statement to be made by the Sycamores too. The primary reason being that Drake is no non-scholarship pushover.

Drake — a member of the original Missouri Valley Conference football set-up that disbanded in the mid-1980s — plays in the non-scholarship Pioneer League.

Ordinarily, teams from today’s Missouri Valley Football Conference — in which all schools offer 63 scholarships — are expected to handle teams from the Pioneer League.

Teams in the Pioneer League are Division I, but due to NCAA rules prohibiting teams from playing basketball and football in different divisions, they don’t offer scholarships and have more in common with Division III programs.

But Drake (1-1) proved last Saturday that it’s competitive, scholarships or not. The Bulldogs hosted No. 4 Montana State and led the Bobcats 24-21 going into the final quarter. Montana State rallied for a 34-24 victory.

It wasn’t just the close call the Bulldogs made Montana State sweat out. The statistics proved the Bulldogs were no fluke. Drake quarterback Mike Piatkowski threw for 311 yards and completed 25 of 43 pass attempts. Drake also leads FCS in sacks at six per game and three were recorded against Montana State. Drake also leads in tackles for loss at 11 1/2 per game.

Those are just two ways in which the Bulldogs — defending champions of the Pioneer League — can beat a team. And those are two areas in which ISU has been inconsistent.

ISU has allowed three sacks per game, tied for 91st in FCS. Quarterback Mike Perish has been effective, but he hasn’t always been blessed with time.

“I feel real good about how the offensive line can handle pressure. They’ll be fine,” said Perish, waving off any concerns about protection.

Though ISU is more than respectable as it ranks 36th in FCS in pass defense, the Sycamores were hurt at times by Indiana’s pass attack (280 yards) on Sept. 1 and their stats are buoyed by Quincy’s utter lack of a passing attack (41 yards) due to the Hawks’ quarterback issues last Saturday.

“They have a nice quarterback and he moves out of the pocket to avoid sacks,” ISU cornerback Calvin Burnett said. “We want to treat this like a conference game. We’re not going to take them lightly. They’re a good opponent.”

The statement ISU (1-1) can potentially make is two-fold. If it were to beat Drake by a sizable margin, it would potentially look good to the FCS selection committee later in the season, especially in comparison to the Montana State result.

But more importantly, a win against a quality opponent would provide a kick-start to the MVFC season, which begins next week. A loss would have the opposite effect.

“I’m sure they want to make a statement to the committee that they deserve an automatic bid. We want to make a statement for our conference. We’ve got two teams trying to make a statement,” ISU coach Trent Miles said.

ISU is mostly injury-free. Safety Donovan Layne returned to practice this week after missing last Saturday’s game.

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