TERRE HAUTE —
In any game, no matter the outcome, a team is going to have good and bad moments. As a coach, you just hope the twain meets in a place that equals a victory or improvement for your team.
That twain was never met for Indiana State against Indiana last Thursday. A 73-35 loss to the Hoosiers was evidence of that.
ISU coach Mike Sanford, his staff and the players have had time to let the game sink in and to judge what went wrong. Sanford said the Sycamores swung between two extremes.
“We were not consistent. We were really bad or we really good. In every phase,” Sanford said.
There were mitigating factors that went into ISU’s troubles — injuries to running back Shakir Bell and safety Donovan Layne played their part — but Sanford narrowed ISU’s big problems to 11 big plays on the part of IU.
“There were 11 big plays that determined the game and they were the difference in the game. If we play better on those 11 plays, we’re going to be much better,” Sanford said.
Sanford said poor tackling also hurt the Sycamores and was disappointed with that given the emphasis his staff has put on tackling.
On the other side of the ledger, Sanford cited ISU’s game-tying scoring drive and a stop of IU on fourth down as two plays that exemplified the good extremes the Sycamores achieved.
n Bell update — Bell did not practice on Monday or Tuesday. Bell visited the doctor on Tuesday to get a specific diagnosis for his injured right shoulder. Bell landed on his right shoulder after a 45-yard run late in the second quarter.
ISU’s current official word is that Bell has a bruised shoulder.
“There’s nothing broken. As far as what it is exactly? We don’t have specifics. I think it’s going to be a thing as far as the week develops and he’ll be a game time decision,” Sanford said.
Sanford was asked whether he would hold out Bell as a precaution even if he was ready to play. A win Saturday against Purdue would help ISU’s FCS playoff hopes, but a loss would do little to damage the Sycamores’ prospects.
Sanford said that a precautionary game off for Bell was not in his plans.
“No, I think Shakir is the kind of player where he’s a physical back and he runs hard. Ideally, I’d like him to be at his best if he plays. If he’s at his best, he’ll play. If he isn’t, he won’t,” Sanford said.
•Layne injury hurt the Sycamores — The sprained left ankle suffered by Layne was equally damaging to ISU’s cause last Thursday. Layne attended practice on Tuesday, but was in a boot.
Sanford cautioned not to assume too much from a player wearing a boot. He cited a recent to-do regarding a boot worn by Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who wore a boot prior to the Crimson Tide’s opener against Virginia Tech. McCarron played in his game.
“I don’t know how much a boot means. Some people look at a boot and say, ‘he’s really injured’ and I don’t know if that’s always the case. We’ll have to wait-and-see how it develops,” Sanford said.
Sanford acknowledged how vital Layne’s loss was. After he left the game in the first quarter, a bevy of inexperienced safeties were thrown into the fire ahead of when they were supposed to.
“It was a big blow, especially with Larry King being out already. I think it was an emotional blow because the secondary is really close to one another,” Sanford said.
ISU’s few experienced defensive backs — cornerback Calvin Burnett and safety Mark Sewall — will have to take a bigger role than ever to get young teammates going.
“Injuries were a big setback for us. As a defensive backfield, we’re young, but it’s up to the older guys to get guys in places they need to be,” Sewall said.
• Purdue view — When asked by the Purdue media what he expected scheme-wise from the Sycamores, Purdue coach Darrell Hazell was fascinated by ISU’s defense.
“Defensively they play a little different,” said Hazell, citing 1980s era Michigan State defense an example. “They used to play this tilt 4-3 where the nose guard and the three-technique were on the same side and they did a lot of looping. That’s what you’re going to see a lot of.”
Hazell saw the obvious on film — that ISU got punished by the Hoosiers in man-to-man coverage.
“They got themselves hurt last week against Indiana playing press-man against the wideout. They are going to be a quarter-coverage team and play a little bit of man,” Hazell said.
The nature of ISU’s surge made it hard for the Boilermakers to get too much of a read on the Sycamores.
“That was an uncommon thing to get beat as much as they did,” Hazell said. “I’m sure they are going to play better. They have good players on their football team.”