TERRE HAUTE — In the last seven days, Indiana State’s football team was trounced by 41 points by rival Illinois State. The embarrassing defeat led ISU coach Mike Sanford to question the effort of some of his Sycamores with the promise that changes would be made.
Then, on Tuesday, the career of running back Shakir Bell — the face of the program since his breakout 2011 season and one of ISU’s all-time best players — came to a bizarre end with two different versions of how he departed.
It’s been a turbulent week for the Sycamores, but there’s always another game to play. No doubt the Sycamores would like to put the tumult behind them and focus on beating their next opponent. Who’s next?
Oh … it’s No. 1-ranked and two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State.
No one said life in the Missouri Valley Football Conference was easy. The timing of NDSU’s visit to Memorial Stadium for today’s 3 p.m. kickoff is less than ideal.
But then, there’s never a good time to face the Bison. NDSU has won a MVFC-record 16 games in a row. It’s last defeat? A shocking 17-14 upset to the Sycamores on Oct. 13, 2012, at the Fargodome.
“They came into Fargo last year and beat us. We had a good football team. Our players are very aware of that. I came in at 5:10 a.m. the other day and I wasn’t the first guy in. We have a big task at hand,” NDSU coach Craig Bohl said.
A motivated NDSU team sends shivers down the spine, but the biggest question mark for any team facing the Bison, particularly for the offensively challenged Sycamores, is how to solve NDSU’s potent defense.
Familiar Bison standouts like defensive ends Cole Jirik and Kyle Emanuel, cornerback Marcus Williams, safety Colten Teagle and linebacker Trent Olson still dot the Bison roster. Given the talent on-hand, it stands to reason that NDSU ranks No. 1 in the country in total defense (257.9 yards), scoring defense (12.9 points) and rushing defense (75.7).