News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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October 1, 2012

ISU punter Lucas Hileman flipped script on SIU

CARBONDALE, ILL. — When it comes to effective football defense, at least half the battle is field position.

If that axiom is true, than Indiana State punter Lucas Hileman might have been the Sycamores’ defensive player of the game in ISU’s 24-3 victory Saturday night.

SIU’s defense forced ISU to punt nine times, but it almost played into ISU’s hands as Hileman dominated field position. Hileman averaged 42.8 yards per punt and had two punts downed inside the SIU 20.

“I find it hard to believe there’s a better punter than Lucas Hileman in I-AA or in college football in general,” ISU coach Trent Miles said.

Hileman had punts of 66, 60, 56, 51 and 50 yards. He also had a 56-yard punt wiped off the books when he was roughed.

Hileman’s average includes a 6-yard punt on his first kick of the day, the result of a fake punt that wasn’t as Hileman quick-kicked on the run. If that shank is taken out of the mix, Hileman’s average jumped to 47.3 per punt.

“The man’s amazing. I can’t say enough about Lucas. [The ISU defense] had great field position all night,” ISU running back Shakir Bell said.

Hileman, who grew up 20 miles south of SIU’s campus in Anna, Ill., had two key punts among the many he boomed. The 66-yarder occurred early in the third quarter. SIU had stopped the Sycamores at the ISU 11 and seemed to have the field position advantage, but Hileman’s 66-yarder flipped the script on the Salukis, as they had to start their ensuing drive at their own 23-yard line.

“Lucas Hileman is a big part of this defense. Being able to put them on the other side of the field, it’s huge for us. It changes the way their offense calls plays,” ISU defensive end Ben Obaseki said.

Another pivotal Hileman punt came with 2:23 left in the third quarter. With ISU holding a 7-3 lead in a defensive struggle, Miles elected to punt on 4th-and-1 from the SIU 38-yard line.

The rationale was that a successful pooch punt could pin SIU deep in its own territory and give ISU’s defense the chance to give ISU’s offense advantageous field position.

It worked. Hileman’s 28-yard punt was fair caught at the SIU 10 and the Salukis gained just four yards on the ensuing series. ISU got the ball back at the SIU 49 and would eventually score the touchdown that broke the game open.

“It was a field-position game. We might have got a first down there, but with the way both defenses were playing, field position was huge. I appreciate the confidence from coach Miles to do that. It turned out well,” Hileman said.

• Offense hung in — The Sycamores had 255 yards of total offense against a Saluki defense that didn’t get the same reward for its efforts as ISU’s defense did. (Coincidentally SIU had the same amount of total yards.)

ISU protected a 7-3 lead for nearly two quarters and was forced to punt nine times. Despite that, Miles was happy that the unit stuck with it and forced SIU to blink first in a battle of defensive wills.

“The defense was awesome, but it was an awesome team win because our offense never got down. SIU has the 28th-rated [run] defense. We kept going and going and didn’t panic,” Miles said.

There were some personnel changes too. Wide receiver Demory Lawshe missed the game with a foot injury. Center Evan Borchers missed the first series due to a violation of team rules and Adam Masters started at right guard in place of Justin Wood.

At various stages of the game, running back Shakir Bell, wide receiver Donald Spencer and tight end Michael Mardis missed snaps because of injuries. Mardis’ injury was the most serious. He left the game in the third quarter with a hip pointer. X-rays were negative.

“We had some makeshift deals in there, but we competed across the board,” Miles said. “It wasn’t pretty on offense, but it doesn’t matter. It ain’t going to be pretty in this conference. It’s a heavyweight conference that slugs it out.”

• Bell down twice, but not out — Bell left the game twice in the second half with injuries. He returned in both cases and matched his season high with 33 carries on his way to 160 rushing yards.

Bell was all smiles after the contest and was moving around without a noticeable limp. A win always helps that cause. He shrugged off and joked about the injuries that stopped the game twice.

“I feel like I gave more hits than I took. I was hitting them and I kind of hurt myself,” Bell said.

“[The first time] I went down with a head thing. I tried to hit someone hard and I ended up hitting them with my helmet [wrong] and then hit my head on the ground. I was a little dizzy,” Bell said.

Bell took, and delivered, some bruising hits. He said the pain didn’t stop after the whistle stopped play.

“I was under the pile and there was some foul play going on … they kept going at my ankle,” Bell said.

• On the same page — Miles had expressed concern and had said he was “appalled” after a contentious Thursday practice that saw the ISU offense re-running all of its plays after the regular practice period ended.

By Friday, the frustration had given way to Miles' desire to get a message of unity across to the players.

“I told them we were going to let [Thursday’s practice] go and just play with confidence. Offensively, we had a nice pow-wow on Friday and our kids did a great job of pulling together and everyone pulled for each other,” Miles said.

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