There was only one prevailing emotion among Indiana State’s football players in the wake of a 73-35 loss to Indiana on Thursday.
The Sycamores were shell-shocked.
ISU was confident it could produce a repeat of its performance against IU in 2012, when it lost by a touchdown and had a chance to tie the game on the last play of the game.
Not this time. Not this year against an improved IU team and an ISU team that showed it has some learning to do.
“It’s not what we expected or what we wanted. It’s nothing close to what we expected or wanted, but the reality is, it’s what happened,” ISU coach Mike Sanford said.
How sobering was it for the Sycamores? Consider this.
The 73 points Indiana scored was the most ISU has conceded since 1920 and the most in the modern history of ISU’s program.
ISU gave up 158 points to Millikin in 1920, but ISU dropped football in 1921-22 before it was revived for good in 1923. ISU’s highest point total conceded since then was 72 against Southern Illinois in 2007.
“It’s heartbreaking right now,” said ISU cornerback Calvin Burnett. “We have to go back to the drawing board and come back strong.”
It was the Hoosiers’ second-highest scoring total in school history and most ever scored at Memorial Stadium. IU took a knee in field goal range late in the game which prevented the total amassed against ISU from being worse.
“We got some stats that look cool,” IU coach Kevin Wilson said.
On the bright side, ISU matched its highest point total against a Big Ten team, tying the 35 points scored against Purdue in 2007.
But that just made the Sycamores’ self-inflicted wounds, ones that helped the Hoosiers get rolling in the first half, that much more galling.
“It was very, very frustrating and very difficult,” Sanford said.
Defensively, ISU was playing its first game with more aggressive principles than it had last season. ISU’s defensive players couldn’t put a finger on how it allowed six touchdowns of over 20 yards or IU’s 632 yards of total offense — 313 rushing yards and 319 passing yards.
“Right now we have to play all together. Everyone has to do the right thing at the right time. If someone does the wrong thing, it’s an 80-yard run. It’s too hard to recoup from that too many times in one game,” ISU’s Connor Underwood said.
Sanford said there’s a lot to learn on both sides of the ball.
“I think we have a lot to learn. We have a new scheme on both sides of the ball, new terminology. I’m never going to make excuses, but we’ve got to learn our system better. We have to play better, get better with fundamentals and prevent mistakes,” said Sanford, who said the opportunity some young Sycamores got was a “good thing.”
The challenge for the Sycamores is to not let the bad feelings linger, especially with another Big Ten team — Purdue — next up Sept. 7.
“We’ll watch film and figure out how to do better. There’s obviously things we need to do better on both sides of the ball and the kicking game. We’re not going to hang our heads. It’s a speed bump. We’ll see how we bounce back,” Shakir Bell said.
• Field position hurt ISU — One of the results of ISU’s mistakes was advantageous field position for the Hoosiers. IU started eight series in ISU territory, including six of its first nine.
That put pressure on ISU’s defense, but Burnett wasn’t using it as an excuse.
“If there’s green on the field, we should be able to defend it. It’s still on the defense. Our motto is ‘as long as we have green, we have a chance.’ We have to bow up in the red zone more,” Burnett said.
• Fresh blood in receiving corps — One of the surprises Sanford unveiled on Thursday was a receiving corps that hadn’t practiced much together in the preseason.
ISU started Louisiana Tech transfer Travis Reyes and junior college transfer Kyani Harris in a two-tight-end set that included Jamar Brown and Garrick Dikos.
Reyes didn’t have a catch, but Harris had two catches for 22 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Freshman Sampson Levingston also contributed as he had an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Tanner Riley and Demory Lawshe, announced as starters, also played extensively.
Brown, in his first game at tight end, had a strong effort. He had four catches for 50 yards, including a one-handed grab on the sideline that helped set up ISU’s first touchdown.
• Aviles hit — A low point for the Sycamores, and one that had IU fans up in arms at Memorial Stadium, was a dangerous hit on IU punt returner Shane Wynn by ISU freshman defensive back Carlos Aviles in the third quarter.
Aviles hit a defenseless Wynn with both arms as Wynn prepared to catch a punt. Aviles was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game. Wynn was briefly down on the field injured and received treatment, but is not expected to miss any action for the Hoosiers.
“That was a youth error. He’s a young guy who plays hard and plays fast. He made a huge mistake,” Sanford said. “Afterward, he said, ‘Coach, I don’t know how I did that.’ It wasn’t intentional. He hit him, but there was no design to have that happen. It’s a freshman mistake.”
IU also had a player ejected. Offensive lineman Jake Reed was ejected in the first half for throwing a punch at an ISU player.