TERRE HAUTE —
Preseason football scrimmages are a strange animal.
You have to observe a preseason scrimmage with the idea that there’s things you probably won’t see. You won’t see game-day speed. You won’t see game-day substitution patterns. You won’t see any players who have the slightest injury.
So anything you do see from a team has to be taken with a grain of salt — both good and bad.
And that’s a fair assessment of how Indiana State’s Blue-White scrimmage played out Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“There were good things, there were bad things. I thought our defense flew around and did a nice job. We have to get our offense up to speed. By no means are they ready to play yet. Neither is our defense. We still have a lot to work on,” Miles said.
ISU played starters against starters and backups against backups. In both cases, defense dominated.
During the regularly timed portion of the scrimmage, the starting and backup offenses scored one touchdown apiece. Forays into the red zone were rare.
The performance pleased ISU linebacker Jacolby Washington, who thought the defense was in form to start the season.
“I think we did really well. We executed all of our plays. I think we’re headed for a good start,” Washington said. “We have depth, we have guys who can come in and play because they redshirted and have been in the defense for a couple of years.”
The inability to move the ball had a double-negative effect on ISU’s offense. It gave punter Lucas Hileman a chance to continually boot them into poor field position. Hileman punted eight times and amassed 341 yards for a 42.9 yard average. Hileman was deadly accurate too — two of his punts were downed inside the 10.
As Miles said, there’s a lot to work on, especially on the offensive side. But there are also caveats.
ISU’s offense was short-handed, mostly notably missing All-American running back Shakir Bell. The junior injured his neck in Friday’s practice and observed the scrimmage from the press box. Bell was wearing a neck brace, but both he and ISU coach Trent Miles said his absence was precautionary, and that he should be OK to play against Indiana on Sept. 1.
Also missing were starting offensive lineman Adam Masters and Justin Wood. Add them to injured center FN Lutz and ISU only had two of the five lineman it intended to start this season with.
All-American defensive end Ben Obaseki also sat out on the defensive side.
“Shakir is pure precaution. So is Ben. If we were going to play, they could’ve played, but I don’t need to play IU today. We’ll have them ready when we start our prep for the game,” Miles said.
Starting quarterback Mike Perish completed 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards and a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Mardis.
“At times, we had some good plays. At other times, we’d make a good play and then put ourselves in a hole on third down. Besides that, I thought we were good,” Perish said.
True freshman Robert Tonyan Jr. completed 9 of 17 passes for 145 yards, a touchdown (a 12-yard strike to DeSean Prentice) and an interception. Playing later in the scrimmage, Travis Johnson completed 3 of 4 passes for 25 yards. Trent Lancaster completed both of his two passes for 22 yards.
Tonyan threw a 50-yard pass to wide receiver Taje High — which accounted for all of High’s game-high receiving yardage. Mardis and wide receiver Jerry Stephen each had four catches.
Without Bell, the running game sputtered. Gerrick Ratliff led the way with 49 yards and a 47-yard touchdown run — all were amassed late with reserve players in the scrimmage. Richie Dyer took Bell’s spot on the starting unit and ran for 28 yards on 15 carries.
“[The offense] going to look a little different when [the injured players] are not out there, but at the same time, the next guy has to step in and carry the flag. You can’t have any drop off,” Miles said.
Defensively, Zakee Bashir had a fumble recovery and Othniel Harvey had an interception. Full defensive statistics were not kept, but sacks were recorded by Kendall Walker and Conrrad Nichols, among others.
ISU intends to have another scrimmage on Thursday before it begins game prep for Indiana next Sunday.
“We’re not where we want to be, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Miles said.