TERRE HAUTE —
I’ve often heard it said when a player has a big statistical day that he’s racking up “video game numbers.”
Anyone who knows their way around the virtual gridiron on Madden or the NCAA football video games knows you can roll up your numbers to silly extremes if you know what you’re doing.
But there’s no way “video game numbers” does anywhere near enough justice in describing Indiana State running back Shakir Bell’s school-record 256-yard rushing effort against Youngstown State on Saturday.
If you racked up yards with the ease that Bell did in the 37-35 victory? You’d quit the video game because it was too easy.
Bell’s rushing onslaught — the sophomore had 215 yards on 10 carries and four touchdowns at halftime — can’t be aptly captured with the usual adjectives.
At times, it seemed supernatural. Supernatural Shakir put Youngstown State’s defense and the 6,523 in attendance at Memorial Stadium into a spell and took them all on a magical (or nightmarish in YSU’s case) ride in ISU’s 37-35 victory.
Hyperbole? I don’t think so. The numbers for Bell were so off-the-charts outlandish during the first half that even if you saw Bell do what he did in the flesh, they’re still hard to believe.
To wit, after two carries and not even four minutes into the contest, Bell had 101 yards and two touchdowns. Good for a humdrum 50.5 yards per carry.
He scored on the first play of the game via a 62-yard scamper, setting a blazing tone that left the Penguins’ defense charred.
At the break, Bell had the Memorial Stadium press box scrambling for the NCAA record books. The 215 yards on 10 carries the 5-foot-7 sophomore had (among them a Barry Sanders-style 10-yard loss … he could have had more) put him ahead of the all-time NCAA FCS record for yards per carry in a game.
Bell was averaging 21.5 yards per carry at the break. The NCAA FCS record is 19.1 per carry, with a minimum threshold of 15 carries to qualify for the mark. Bell was on pace for 430 rushing yards, seven short of the all-time single-game record.
“I didn’t even know what I had. I knew I had a lot,” Bell said.
Bell inevitably slowed, but only down to incredible instead of interstellar. By the time Bell got to the 15-carry mark, his average had slipped below the record, but not by much. His average dropped to only 16 yards. He finished at 12.2.
His last carry put him over the top for the school record and clinched the game with a key first down after YSU had rallied to cut its deficit to two. He broke the previous record of 253 yards, set by Derrick Franklin in 1990.
It was a bravado performance. But Bell was quick to spread the credit around.
“The coordinators set everything up perfectly for us. The offensive line did everything they needed to do to make their blocks. The wide receivers did a great job blocking. When everyone does their job, we get great results,” Bell said.
Bell’s right. On his second touchdown, a 39-yard run with 11:11 left in the first quarter, Bell was released on a crushing block by fullback Brock Lough. On his fourth touchdown, a 51-yarder, Bell broke into space after right tackle Casey Paswater and right guard Adam Masters neutralized their defenders — Paswater taking his outside, Masters going inside — and from there the speedster was gone. On all of his scores, Bell also benefited from excellent downfield blocking by ISU’s receivers.
But a big part of it was the play-calling by ISU’s coaching staff. ISU continually caught out YSU’s defense in formations where Bell was isolated against a single defender or two on the outside. With Bell’s speed, the Penguins didn’t stand a chance.
“They brought their safeties down. We brought in an extra tight end and fullback so we could go hat-for-hat. As long as everyone got blocked, we were OK,” ISU tight end Alex Jones said. “We also ran a lot of weak-side stuff because we saw a weakness there. When they brought their safety down, we wanted to test him and see if he could play the linebacker role.”
From the Penguins’ side of things, YSU coach Eric Wolford lamented missed assignments.
“We emphasized all week we couldn’t give up big plays. We had some missed tackles and some missed alignments,” Wolford said.
Of course, the benefit of Bell’s early running was the ease in which it set up the pass later on. ISU went to plenty of play-action passes in the second half and why not? YSU had to spread its defenders out to account for Bell’s speed on the outside, opening up plenty of passing lanes for ISU quarterback Ronnie Fouch to exploit. Fouch had 189 passing yards.
For Bell, it was his second outstanding week of rushing in a row — he had 221 yards against Western Kentucky on Sept. 17. But for ISU, it was third week in a row in which it had a 100-yard rusher — Lough had 131 against Butler on Sept. 10.
ISU can beat you either way — via its ground attack or via the arm of Fouch. In a defensively-challenged Missouri Valley Football Conference, the ISU offensive potency will give opposing defensive coordinators night sweats.
“It was tremendous. We expect to be able to run even if they [put] seven or eight guys in the box. If we get the running game going, teams in our conference can’t key on one thing because we’re pretty balanced,” said Jones, who had five receptions for 81 yards.
Expecting to be able to run is one thing. But the display that Bell put on Saturday?
It was supernatural.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
I’ve often heard it said when a player has a big statistical day that he’s racking up “video game numbers.”
- From the Press Box
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Fair or unfair, ISU football most vulnerable to NCAA change
It just doesn’t seem fair.
Just when you think Indiana State football has achieved stability and a sense of calm, forces are ranged around it that continue to make it the most vulnerable sport offered at ISU.
Todd Golden: Bigelow part of Action Track’s lifeblood
Many things have changed since the Terre Haute Action Track opened in 1952, but the one constant is dirt.
From the Press Box: Simple sports pleasures are best
Andy Amey is the undisputed king of vacation columns in the Tribune-Star’s annals. I just returned from vacation, and while there were certainly tales to tell, I’m left with fond memories of simple sports pleasures.
My family and I spent an extended weekend in Kansas City? Why? Why not? Truthfully, it was close, there’s a lot to do there, and we didn’t want the headache and expense of a long-haul vacation. We had a great time.
Steady success: ISU continued to climb ladder with one of its best overall seasons ever
First of all, if you’re an Indiana State fan, stand up and applaud. The Sycamores collectively went where only one Sycamore athletic department went before in 2013-14. ISU finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference All-Sports Trophy standings. ISU recorded a score of 3.538, its highest in school history.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Appeal of World Cup is communal
Columnist explains appeal of World Cup.
Todd Golden: Indy 500 book is intriguing look into an important era
Doing the job I do, I get my share of books sent to me at the office. I hate to admit it, but a lot of them cross my eye for a moment, and like anyone else, if the subject matter doesn’t interest me, I don’t open it.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Hannahs strikes pitch perfect no-excuse, no-apology tone
ISU coach Mitch Hannahs strikes pitch perfect no-excuse, no-apology tone.
Todd Golden: Good times for ISU athletics
I wish I had a time machine. Would I use it to correct some wrongs in my life or witness some important events in history? Sure, but that’s not what’s on my mind this instant. I’d love to go forward in time to see how the state of Indiana State’s athletic department from the present is perceived in the future.
From the Press Box: Indiana lacking killer instinct against Wizards
After Indiana eeked out a seven-game series win over Atlanta, I opined that I thought the Pacers could only truly declare themselves “back” if they took care of an emerging, but still young, Washington team in six games or less.
After a rousing Game 4 comeback in Washington on Sunday, it appeared the Pacers were ready to do just that. Leading 3-1 in the series, the Wizards limped into Indianapolis on Tuesday and seemed ripe to be closed out by the invigorated Pacers.
Todd Golden: Elite athletes? TH bows to no one
Maybe instead of a new swimming complex, Terre Haute ought to built itself an ice rink. I mean no disrespect to swimming, but ice hockey is the only sport that Terre Haute can’t unequivocally claim an elite athlete in.
TODD GOLDEN: Waltman's integrity helped him rise to the top
When I began to think about former Indiana State coach Royce Waltman — and I’ve thought about him a lot in recent months as the ravages of a stroke and cancer robbed us of his presence — I thought to myself “what can I print?”
Waltman was many things. Blunt, plain-spoken, unfiltered? All of the above and more. Every Indiana State fan saw Waltman in action … and I had a front row seat for three years right next to him on press row.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Missouri Valley is tough — ISU making it tougher
For those who measure the quality of a conference by their place in the Ratings Percentage Index, it was a tough year for the Missouri Valley Conference and its marquee sport: men’s basketball.
The MVC was 11th in conference RPI and took all manner of criticism when Wichita State ran the MVC table for a perfect 18-0 season. The fingers that pointed at the league for fielding a weak challenge to the Shockers’ dominance were many.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU's no-excuses approach for real
If you were to ask me what the drawback of covering Indiana State baseball is? I’d be hard-pressed to name very much.
Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best
It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge
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.
From The Press Box: The nuts and bolts of compiling a Mock Selection for the NCAA Tournament
Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
From the Press Box: Loss couldn’t ruin great day for ISU, Terre Haute
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.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Little to lose, a lot to gain for Indiana State
It’s hard not to get excited about today’s Missouri Valley Conference summit meeting between co-leaders Indiana State and Wichita State. Who wouldn’t be?
From the Press Box: I’ve seen the enemy … and it’s the double bonus
I’ve seen the enemy.
I’ve seen it turn the game of basketball from one of exciting flow into a nonstop parade of tedium. I’ve seen it morph hundreds of what would-be thrilling, last-minute, end-to-end conclusions into foul shooting exhibitions that suck the life out of a gym or arena near you.
It’s the double bonus. It’s a scourge, one that is often overlooked when ideas on how to make the game more entertaining or to speed the game up are put forth.
From The Press Box: If ISU figures out defense, look out
The Great Alaska Shootout is not going to provide the Great RPI Bump that Indiana State’s participation in last year’s Diamond Head Classic provided.
From the Press Box: Damage is done for ISU football
As a parent and a professional, there’s a bit of advice I’ve tried to pass along that I’ve found to be true.
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.
TODD GOLDEN: Munn, Odum want to make paper accomplishment a real one
When it comes to Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, it has historically been a kick in the gut for Indiana State's basketball teams.
But not this year. For the first time since formal MVC preseason polls began in the mid-1980s, the Sycamores rule the MVC roost.
TODD GOLDEN: Colts fans paid Manning ultimate tribute
Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis was many things — the return of a beloved prodigal son, a battle of Colts’ No. 1-draft-pick quarterbacks and last, but not least, the visit from one of the AFC’s last reminaing undefeated teams — but most of all, it could have been a battle for the Colts’ fans soul.
From The Press Box: ISU in top 2 of top-heavy MVC
Change doesn’t often come to Missouri Valley Conference basketball. Until this season, it had endured with the same 10 members since the mid-1990s. But the reality of conference realignment finally hit the MVC where it lived last spring as Creighton departed for the new Big East Conference. The MVC responded by adding Loyola University.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamores shocked by 1-5 start to season
It was a play that not only symbolized Indiana State’s 17-14 loss at South Dakota on Saturday, but perhaps the Sycamores’ entire season.
Down three with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter, ISU faced third-and-9 from its own 39. ISU ran Shakir Bell to the left and the senior standout had daylight.
From The Press Box: An avoidable loss
It couldn’t last forever.
From The Press Box: Colts dodge bullets ... it's what they do
Just a few minutes into the second quarter, it seemed Colts fans could kick back and enjoy a Sunday on Easy Street.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Indiana State proves plenty in 20-14 loss at Purdue
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.
From the Press Box: Stipends? No. Off-field income? Oh yeah, bring it on
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.
TODD GOLDEN: Golf ... the beast within?
Like many sports fans, my interest in professional golf is confined to the four major tournaments. Many prefer the Masters, some like the back-to-roots British Open, but I’ve always liked the U.S. Open the best.
- More From the Press Box Headlines
- FROM THE PRESS BOX: Fair or unfair, ISU football most vulnerable to NCAA change