TERRE HAUTE —
Everyone knows life is unfair … you just hate it when life proves it.
So it went for Indiana State’s football team on Saturday as it faced perennial power Northern Iowa.
It was the biggest game for the ISU program in 14 years. First place was on the line. The city and ISU campus seemed somewhat energized — attendance was 6,038, it should have been higher, but fans have been showing up in much greater numbers since mid-October. Certainly there was far more energy in the stadium than the crushing apathy normally seen at November ISU home games.
With all of this in ISU’s corner, disaster struck.
After having been healthy all season, almost freakishly so, the Sycamores lost three of its four starting linebackers in the span of a week. Ryan Roberts (knee), Santino Davis (ankle) and Aaron Archie (shoulder) were all unavailable to play against a UNI running attack that leads the conference.
UNI won 30-20. UNI ran 57 times for 340 yards, well over its season average for running attempts per game. The injuries unquestionably hurt the Sycamores.
Yet with two minutes to go, the game was still in doubt. UNI led 23-20 and was in the midst of a make-or-break scoring drive.
ISU held it together because it fought hard. ISU’s depleted defense bent, but failed to break on several occasions. In the first half, ISU kept UNI from scoring a touchdown on three straight Panther sorties into the red zone, forcing a turnover on the last of those series which eventually led to an ISU touchdown.
Jacolby Washington, who moved back to linebacker from defensive end, played an inspired game with 17 tackles and a sack. Dillon Painter, who replaced Roberts, had 10 tackles.
The Sycamores really had no business being within range of the lead that late in the game given how UNI was moving the ball … yet they were. And it was a compliment to the confidence the Sycamores have gained as they’ve dramatically improved this season.
“We didn’t get it done, but we had our chances … and that’s better [than it has been]. I’m highly disappointed we didn’t win. We’re learn from it,” Miles said.
The rest of the league has learned. UNI, historically the best team in the MVFC by a wide margin, has traditionally blasted ISU at every opportunity — Saturday’s victory improved the Panthers’ record in the series to 23-4.
Yet even though UNI led 23-20 late, the Panthers knew darn well that if they didn’t get a touchdown on their final series, they were in trouble given ISU’s offensive capabilities.
“Every series is a big series. Anything can happen with the quarterback [Ronnie Fouch] that Indiana State has. They can score at any given moment. Their offense is very powerful and they can score at will. We had to take every opportunity we had to stop them and get our offense on the field to run down the clock,” UNI linebacker Jamar Thompson said.
UNI coach Mark Farley has personally witnessed nearly all of the ISU-UNI “battles” over the years, though “slaughters” might be a more accurate way to put it as Saturday’s game was only the ninth in the 27-game series decided by 10 points or less.
Farley played for UNI starting in 1982 and was a graduate assistant and assistant coach at UNI after that. The only gap came when he was an assistant coach under then-Kansas coach and current Missouri State coach Terry Allen from 1997-2000, before he returned to the Panthers as the head coach.
“We treated this game just like a championship game. We knew how big this game was. We knew the attitude of the Indiana State football team and we knew we were in for a 1-2 battle. There’s no question about that,” Farley said.
“We talked and worked just like if we were getting ready for Southern Illinois or some other top team in the league. I can’t say we’ve done that in years’ past, we just wanted to come here and play good and make sure we got the win. In this case, we had to get in the minds of our players and get them to play their tails off,” Farley added.
UNI did, but so did ISU. And both the teams and fans got a game that was worthy of the Fight To First mantra ISU self-proclaimed it to be going into the game.
It was disappointing to see some of the ISU faithful depart before the game ended. Those who stayed gave the Sycamores a standing ovation they richly deserve for making such a great and unexpected leap forward this season.
Fate might have tied one hand tied behind ISU’s back against UNI on Saturday, but they fought, and they’ll live to fight again. The future is bright for Sycamore football.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Please check out Golden’s Down In The Valley blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.
TERRE HAUTE —
Everyone knows life is unfair … you just hate it when life proves it.
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When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
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When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
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No matter what you happen to be doing — whether it be job performance or just your own personal behavior — you can do the right thing for a period of time, even the vast majority of the time, but all it takes is one slip and the goodwill you’ve built up can be gone in one fell swoop.
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No moral victories?
Bull. Its always been bull and it will always be bull. The Sycamores proved again that moral victories are very real, and can be very rewarding.
All they needed to do to prove it was to look at the stunned faces of the Purdue faithful at Ross-Ade Stadium in the Sycamores’ near-miss 20-14 loss to Purdue.
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The war flags have been raised. The trumpets have sounded.
With the Johnny Manziel autograph hullabaloo and the ongoing Ed O’Bannon suit against the NCAA for using his likeness as background, many have rallied to the battle standard of stipends as a means of compensating NCAA athletes who are allegedly being exploited for income by their universities.
This rally cry has a particular resonance among those in my profession, many of whom dislike the current system, and who detest the NCAA with a virulent passion.
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When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
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If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
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It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
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Sycamores blossom on Hawaii trip
Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
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The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
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- Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best