TERRE HAUTE —
When Indiana State was able to convince Ronnie Fouch to transfer from the University of Washington prior to the 2010 season, the Sycamores hit the Division I transfer jackpot.
Fouch was a rock for ISU during his two seasons in Terre Haute. He was a cog in a high-powered ISU passing attack in 2010 and 2011. He was accurate, he made solid reads, he had good instincts in the pocket.
What’s forgotten about Fouch is that when he arrived at ISU, he was a ready-made upperclassmen who had started for most of the 2008 season in the then-Pac-10 Conference for the Huskies.
Current ISU quarterback Mike Perish, who transferred from Western Michigan, shares the Division I transfer tag with Fouch, but little else.
Perish is a sophomore who played exactly one game at his former school. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 42 yards in a 68-19 win over Akron on Nov. 25, 2011.
So while Perish is compared to Fouch in terms of how he came to be a Sycamore, the experience level is a lot different.
“He’s a sophomore that’s learning. It’s his first season of playing a lot,” said ISU coach Trent Miles
Perish’s inexperience has shown at times and he has flashed his potential at others.
Perish’s performance in Saturday’s 31-17 victory over Missouri State is a perfect example of this yin and yang. Statistically, Perish wasn’t impressive as he completed 11 of 24 passes for 127 yards. He had two interceptions and two touchdown passes.
Despite the stat line, there were times when Perish made a play to get ISU’s offense over the hump. On a 26-yard Demory Lawshe touchdown connection in the second quarter, he made a spot-on toss on a flag pattern.
After he had struggled before and after halftime, Perish threw a difficult sideline pass to tight end Michael Mardis for a 31-yard completion on third-and-long. Later in the same drive, he put just the right touch on an against-the-grain lob to Mardis for a 16-yard go-ahead touchdown.
“I definitely need improvement. There were a couple of bad decisions that were interceptions and I’ve been inaccurate at times. I need to work on my accuracy and my reads, but other than that, I made a couple of good plays too and played well,” Perish said.
The on-again, off-again pattern has taken hold in other ISU games. Perish completed 9 of 10 first-half passes at Southern Illinois on Sept. 29, but just barely finished with a completion percentage over 50 percent (11 of 21) for the game.
Perish completed 16 of 23 attempts in the first three quarters against South Dakota State on Sept. 22, but was 11 of 23 in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 loss.
Perish has fallen into the traps inexperienced quarterbacks often fall into. He’s been sacked 17 times, a few sacks suffered because he’s held on to the ball too long. As he mentioned, Perish has been inconsistent with accuracy, particularly on deep throws and timing patterns.
But he’s also been very accurate on short throws and has been tough. Perish has been hit many more times than the 17 sacks he’s absorbed, but he’s held his ground in the pocket despite the inconsistent protection. He hasn’t shown signs of getting happy feet sensing pressure before it comes.
Miles attributed a simple reason for some of Perish’s growing pains — Missouri Valley Football Conference defenses provide a classroom of hard knocks.
“He’s going against really good defenses. These defenses can stack up against any in the MAC or any in Division I. They’re really good, so he’s getting different looks, different blitzes, different fronts and coverages. He’s learning every weekend and he’s getting better,” Miles said.
Perish possesses the amnesia that quarterbacks need to make their way through a game. He rarely gets rattled and rarely lets a good or bad play influence his decision-making on the next one.
“You can’t linger on a bad play you had. It’s going to come back and force you to make another bad play. The quicker you forget bad plays — or good plays even — the more successful you’ll be,” Perish said.
ISU is 4-2 and 2-1 in the MVFC as it heads into its showdown with top-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday. At the end of the day, Miles sees the win-loss record as the bottom line, and Perish has quarterbacked ISU into a position where it’s in the FCS playoff hunt at the midway point.
“What I’ve told him is that not every painting is a Picasso. Sometimes it’s the end result that matters,” Miles said.