TERRE HAUTE —
When playing a team a division below, there could be any number of advantages the higher-division team has that could turn a game into a blowout.
In Indiana State's case against Division II Quincy? Nearly all of the advantages the Sycamores had came to the fore, but if one had to be chosen, it was ISU's speed on the edge.
Quincy had no answer for ISU's passing attack. The Sycamores' air attack overwhelmed the Hawks with a school record 433 passing yards and ISU reaped the benefits in a 70-7 laugher in front of 7,002 in Saturday's home opener at Memorial Stadium.
The point total scored by ISU is a new Memorial Stadium record for the Sycamores. It broke the previous mark of 66, last amassed in 1999 against Southern Illinois. It's the first time ISU has reached the 70-level in points since it scored 72 against Vincennes in 1925.
ISU quarterback Mike Perish threw for 379 passing yards, just shy of the school record of 396. He threw four touchdown passes. Most of all, Perish was efficient as he completed 23-of-26 pass attempts with no interceptions and no sacks. Perish's 88.4 percent passing is also a school record.
"Mike Perish was tremendous. It was a carry-over from the Purdue game. We executed well on offense today. We were really able to take advantage their scheme, and you don't always take advantage of that, but we did today," ISU coach Mike Sanford said.
Perish was accurate and had time to throw, but it was ISU's speed on the edges that the Hawks had no answer for.
Perish and reserve quarterback Robert Tonyan spread the wealth to 12 different targets. Tanner Riley had 6 receptions for 62 yards, but Demory Lawshe won the yardage battle with 115. Kyani Harris, Sampson Levington, Travis Reyes, Garrick Dikos, Logan Buske, Justice Berry and a host of others also joined the fun.
"The 23 of 26 [passing] shows how good our offense is because I can't do it by myself," Perish said. "I thought our offense showed a lot of improvement this week. I was proud of the way the offensive line performed and the receivers did a good job run-blocking and receiving. I was impressed with everyone."
ISU's receivers had a physical and speed advantage, but also ran solid routes. If Quincy was already up against it from a physical standpoint, ISU's focus kept it that way.
"Coach [Brian] Sheppard, our offensive coordinator, challenged us as an offense to execute better all week. We wanted to come out and show it again today," Lawshe said.
ISU's running game didn't slouch either. The Sycamores had 238 yards on the ground on their way to 671 yards of total offense, four shy of the school record set against Dayton in 1975.
ISU's defense also kept Quincy from gaining any traction offensively, particularly with its passing game. Quincy had thrown for 224 yards in a 34-6 loss to Western Illinois on Sept. 7, but ISU held Quincy quarterback Nick Lonergan to 107 yards as he completed just 12 of 26 pass attempts.
"We watched a lot of film. We had to know what they were doing in a specific formation. When they had four-by-one, we knew they were running a sprint out. Our coaching staff did a great job of getting us prepared," said ISU safety Tsali Lough, who earned his first career start.
The margin of victory, the points scored and the records set on Saturday were all things the Sycamores appreciated, but what stood out as the biggest positive was that ISU was able to maintain its level of play from its near-miss 20-14 loss at Purdue on Sept. 7 and didn't let their play seep down to Quincy's Division II level.
"We had to be mature enough to play a team that we're a little better then, but not play down to their level, but to play at the highest level they can play. I thought our guys did that," Sanford said.
The news wasn't all good for the Sycamores. With 13 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second quarter, ISU cornerback Calvin Burnett rushed Lonergan and made an acrobatic leap at him to try and disrupt a pass. Burnett missed the mark and landed awkwardly on the Memorial Stadium field turf. He exited the game and did not return.
He was later on the ISU sideline in street clothes and was walking around on his own, but Sanford was concerned about the severity of the injury. He had no postgame details as to its severity.
"It was Calvin's knee. He twisted it. I don't know the extent of it. If we lose Calvin, that's a huge loss," Sanford said.
Sanford said that wide receiver DeSean Prentice (shoulder) and running back Taje High (foot) were also injured.
ISU had announced to the crowd and informed the media staff at ISU that running back Shakir Bell would be the starter on Saturday, but it turned out not to be the case. George Cheeseborough started and he shared carries with Buck Logan, who led ISU with 85 rushing yards.
"How he was listed, it was a game-day decision. The communication wasn't made to the people who announced that," Sanford said.
Sanford said he told Bell after the game that once the clock hit zero, he was back and ready to go.
Besides Bell, ISU held others out. Safety Mark Sewall did not play, nor did defensive tackle Tyler Boyd. Safety Donovan Layne, who was injured at Indiana and didn't play last week at Purdue, also sat out.
As for the game, ISU (1-2) made took the competitiveness out of the equation so early it barely qualified as a contest. ISU did go three-and-out on its first series, but the die was cast on its second drive. Perish found Lawshe down the right sideline on a streak pattern. Lawshe hauled in the pass and out-ran Quincy's secondary to the end zone for a 78-yard strike.
There was little Quincy (0-2) could do to stop the Sycamores from there. Sampson Levingston caught his second touchdown pass of the season on ISU's next series to make it 14-0. Perish plunged in from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter to make it 21-0.
And so it went. Touchdowns by Logan (24 yard run), George Cheeseborough (36 yard run) and High (5 yard catch from Perish) gave ISU an unassailable 42-0 halftime lead.
The last drive was most indicative of ISU's dominance. Quincy punted on third down (3rd-and-29 from its own 18) and ISU drove 76 yards in 36 seconds to score with 7 seconds to go in the half.
The second half brought no respite for the Hawks. Cheeseborough scored again on a 5-yard scamper and Justice Berry scored his first ISU touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Tonyan.
ISU's defense got in on the act as Jess Harris returned an interception 51 yards to make it 63-0. Tonyan got ISU over the 70-mark with a 5-yard run. Quincy only broke the shutout with a touchdown with 2:02 left.
The comfortable ISU victory made it easy to forget it was Sanford's first as the Sycamores' coach. It was his first as a head coach since 2009 when he was at UNLV.
"I'm very excited. It was emotional for me. The team gave me a game ball for my first win. I expect to get a lot more," Sanford said.
ISU has a week off before its plays its final nonconference game of the season. The Sycamores travel to Tennessee Tech on Sept. 28. ISU has never played the Ohio Valley Conference school.
VIDEO: Mike Sanford, Mike Perish and company talk about the victory
TERRE HAUTE —
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