News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

October 6, 2012

ISU defensive newbies get their shot on homecoming

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s football season is at the halfway point and one of the themes that has taken hold is the development of redshirt freshmen on the defensive side of the ball.

As ISU prepares to play Missouri State today in its annual Homecoming game, it knows it can count on several redshirt freshmen to keep the Bears at bay.

Redshirt freshman Mark Sewall is a familiar name in the secondary — he is the brother of former Sycamore Alex Sewall — but a few more Sycamore newbies up front have also shined.

Defensive end Connor Underwood is one of them. Linebacker Tarris Batiste is another. Both started in last Saturday’s 24-3 victory against Southern Illinois and both they were worthy of their spot in the lineup.

Underwood has been a prime contributor all season. The Washington, Ill. native leads ISU with three sacks, including one against the Salukis last week. He also has 14 tackles. Underwood has thrived in a pass-rushing role for the Sycamores. He had two sacks against Drake on Sept. 15 and feels that was his breakthrough.

“Drake really helped me build my confidence in a Division I standpoint. The confidence the coaches show in me is big. They know I can make plays and now that I’ve shown it too, I have confidence,” Underwood said.

What makes Underwood stand out?

“I play hard. I never let up on pursuit and that helps me get my sacks. A couple of sacks were just [the quarterback] fleeing and I ran him down. I think that’s caught the coaches’ eye,” Underwood said.

Underwood’s family has an “ISU lineage”, only it’s with Illinois State. Connor’s father, Scott, played football at Illinois State. His mother, Donna, played volleyball for the Redbirds and his brother Colton is an Illinois State defensive lineman.

Colton Underwood, a junior, also leads his team in sacks as he’s notched four for the unbeaten Redbirds.

Meanwhile, Tarris Batiste was thrust into a starting role last week against SIU unexpectedly and acquitted himself well. Batiste started for Dillon Painter, who was a late injury scratch.

“I knew I kind of could do it. The coaches surprised me with it. I thought Dillon could go, but it was an opportunity, and all you can ask for is an opportunity,” Batiste said.

Batiste had six tackles, including one for a loss. Though Painter is expected back for today’s game, the look the Irvine, Calif. native got against the Salukis was invaluable.

“I’ve given great effort. That’s what coaches want, no matter what grade you’re in. If you’re a senior, a junior, it doesn’t matter. When you give great effort and when we all play as a team, I play pretty well,” Batiste said.

ISU coach Trent Miles is happy with their progress.

“For redshirt freshmen, they’ve developed very well. Coach [P.J.] Volker and coach [Ronnie] Brown coach them well. They’re showing they have the ability to play at this level,” Miles said.

n Bears in town — ISU (3-2, 1-1) has won three consecutive Homecoming games, its longest streak since 1976-78. Missouri State has yet to win, but the Bears (0-5, 0-2) have given both of their MVFC foes fits.

Missouri State outgained Southern Illinois 362-198 on Sept. 22 in Springfield, Mo., but lost 14-6, as SIU held on after an early interception return to earn the win.

Last week, Missouri State was within a field goal of South Dakota State on the road in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell 17-7. The Bears gave up 362 total yards, just 14 more than ISU gave up in a loss to SDSU on Sept. 22.

Missouri State quarterback Ashton Glaser — a Missouri transfer — has thrown six interceptions in the Bears’ two MVFC games.

“I look at this way. Last year, they didn’t win too many games. They got to the last game of the season and traveled to Youngstown State,” Miles noted. “If we lose, Youngstown State is in the playoffs. They go there and beat Youngstown in Youngstown. They’ll never quit, they aren’t one of those teams that’s going to lay down for you.”

ISU tight end Michael Mardis and Donald Spencer — both injured last Saturday — are expected to play today.

n Lutz to sit out season — Miles confirmed on Thursday what seemed obvious as ISU’s MVFC season marched on — center FN Lutz will sit out the season as a medical redshirt. Lutz injured his knee during the spring Blue-White game. He attempted to get back into game shape for the season, but Miles decided to wait until Lutz was 100 percent to play him.

“FN is redshirting this year. It’s the best thing for him first and it’s the best thing for the program,” Miles said.

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