News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 9, 2013

ISU offense continues to struggle at South Dakota State

Terry Vandrovec
Special to the Tribune-Star

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Indiana State had one opportunity Saturday to stagger South Dakota State, a nationally ranked squad still holding onto playoff hopes. It missed on a 13-play, second-quarter drive in a game that was still up for grabs, advancing all the way to the Jackrabbits 6-yard line and netting no points.

The Sycamores didn’t gain a first down on their next seven possessions and didn’t get within 30 yards of the end zone the rest of the game, dropping a 29-0 decision to No. 19-ranked SDSU before a crowd of 5,317 in Missouri Valley Football Stadium at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. It was the seventh loss in a row for ISU (1-9, 0-6), but the first by shutout since Oct. 31, 2009 at Southern Illinois.

“We’re not effective on offense,” first-year coach Mike Sanford said. “We’ve got to run the ball better and we’ve got to be able to convert third downs.”

The Sycamores totaled 161 yards, their second-lowest output this season — and against an SDSU defense that came in ranking last in the Valley in total defense. Only 56 of those yards came through the air, Mike Perish and Robert Tonyan combining to go 7 of 22 with one interception.

The junior Perish made only two attempts before being knocked from the game at the end of a 10-yard run near the ISU sideline. He took a bit hit from Jacks’ cornerback Winston Wright. Both players were down on the field; Wright returned and Perish did not, suffering a concussion on the play, according to Sanford. Only last week Perish returned to the lineup after a right-knee injury. His status going forward is uncertain.

Sanford wanted a flag on the play for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

“I guess I don’t completely understand the rule,” he said.

The freshman Tonyan missed on his first six pass attempts, and the seventh went for a loss of three. He was 1 of 10 for minus-3 until the final seven minutes before finishing 5 of 20 for 46 yards with an interception.

The passing total was a season low for ISU. SDSU (6-4, 3-3) prepared this week for both quarterbacks, and it showed.

The Sycamores best threat was that second-quarter surge. They were down only 9-0 at that point and threatening to score. But Tonyan failed to see a wide open receiver on third-and-goal from the 6 — he overthrew a man on the left instead — and a 29-yard field goal attempt by Eric Heidorn was blocked by SDSU linebacker Charles Elmore.

The Jacks tacked on a field goal — one of three in the first half by Justin Syrovatka in windy conditions — on the ensuing possession and another just 26 seconds before halftime to make it 15-0.

The third field goal was set up by a punt block.

“We really wanted to pass rush on the d-line, but you’ve got to go and play what the quarterback’s going to do,” said Jacks defensive end Marshall Peugh. “We geared up for more run — we anticipated that.” ISU did enough defensively to make SDSU uncomfortable. The spread didn’t exceed two scores until the middle of the third quarter when Jacks quarterback Austin Sumner hit Jason Schneider for a 25-yard touchdown.

Despite several good individual numbers, the Jacks didn’t run roughshod offensively, gaining 382 yards — right in line with their season average.

It’s just that the Sycamores couldn’t match any of the scores. They’ve failed to score an offensive touchdown in any of the last three games.

They’ll try to snap that drought — and their long skid — next week against Western Illinois (3-7, 1-5) in the first of consecutive home games to end the season.

“We’ve got to go home and play with some pride and play with some determination,” Sanford said, “and get a win.”