As Indiana State’s fate against Indiana on Saturday hung in the balance, angst was the enemy as much as the Hoosiers.
Drops among the receivers became chronic. Calls, questionable though some might have been, caused emotions to boil over. ISU coach Trent Miles even got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
All the while, the calm in the storm was ISU quarterback Mike Perish — and that alone is reason for Sycamore fans to feel good.
After missing some open receivers in the first half, Perish was excellent in the second. Though he was 11 for 18 in the second half, a worse percentage than his 9-of-13 first-half percentage, Perish threw for 137 of his 211 passing yards after the break.
Perish did this despite being plagued by numerous second-half drops that hurt his completion percentage. He was also sacked five times in the contest.
“I started the game throwing shorter passes and worked my way up as the game went along. It felt good,” Perish said.
Questions about Perish — who had never played a game for the Sycamores and who played very little at his previous school, Western Michigan — persisted. Could he throw an accurate ball, for one, but also, could he handle a pressure situation?
Given that he was one of the leading lights in keeping ISU in the contest, Perish gave a good first impression.
He got rave reviews from his teammates.
“He is really something out there to play with. He knows what he’s doing. He was threading the ball. He called the right plays. He was checking into the right plays. He got comfortable as things set in,” ISU tight end Michael Mardis said.
“Mike did a great job. We have to block better for him and our wide receivers have to catch the ball,” said ISU running back Shakir Bell.
n Defense took time to adjust to IU speed — One thing Miles was worried about against the Hoosiers was their team speed. There was no way to simulate it until the Sycamores experienced the real thing.
That was evident early on as the Hoosiers ran a no-huddle offense. Quarterback Tre Roberson and a committee of Hoosier running backs were able to get on a roll. IU sustained long drives or scored on its first four series.
But as the game progressed, the Sycamores seemed to get more comfortable. After gaining 15 first downs in the first half, the Hoosiers managed just nine in the second half.
“It was so fast in the first half that we just had to call one set and roll with it,” Miles said. “But we adjusted to their speed in the second half and did better.”
The Hoosiers amassed 451 total yards on 83 plays. IU ran 19 more plays than did the Sycamores.
n Fritschle steps up — A question ISU had going into the season was its kicking game. Tanner Fritschle’s 2012 debut might have calmed those concerns.
Fritschle converted a career-long 45-yard field goal just before halftime and was able to reach the end zone on a few kickoffs.
Wind played havoc with both Fritschle and IU kicker Mitch Ewald when they had to kick toward the south end of Memorial Stadium, but the worst field position IU had on a Fritschle kickoff was the 25-yard line, which is where touchbacks are now placed under new rules.
n Notes — ISU briefly lost safety Donovan Layne and cornerback Johnny Towalid during the game, but both later returned. ISU defensive tackle Garrison McElroy missed the game with an injured back. … Running back George Cheeseborough did not travel with the team. Reasons were not disclosed. … Nick Rice started at right guard in place of Adam Masters. … ISU will open the 2013 season against IU on Aug. 31. It will play Purdue the following weekend. ISU will finish a three-game series against the Hoosiers in 2014. All told, ISU will earn a total of $1,275,000 for the three games. ISU was paid $400,000 for Saturday’s contest.