ST. LOUIS —
Five Indiana State players were named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference first team on Monday, and a school-record 14 Sycamores were honored in all as the league announced postseason awards.
The five first-teamers were second-best in the league behind Illinois State with eight. Conference champion North Dakota State also had five on the first team. The 14 overall honorees was best in the MVC — the second straight season Indiana State has led the way — with NDSU having 13 and Illinois State 12.
In individual honors, Shakir Bell placed third in Offensive Player of the Year voting behind Illinois State’s Matt Brown and South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner.
Aaron Archie was third in Defensive Player of the Year votes behind Marcus Williams of North Dakota State and Colton Underwood of Illinois State.
Connor Underwood was third in both Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year ballots, trailing Northern Iowa’s Sawyer Kollmorgen and South Dakota State’s T.J. Lally in both categories.
Trent Miles was fourth in the Coach of the Year vote won by NDSU’s Craig Bohl.
First-team choices from Indiana State are Bell at running back, Archie at linebacker, Ben Obaseki at defensive end, Johnny Towalid at defensive back and Lucas Hileman at punter.
Second-teamers are fullback Austen Wozniak, offensive linemen Casey Paswater and Evan Borchers, kicker Tanner Fritschle, linebacker Jacolby Washington and defensive back Calvin Burnett. Connor Underwood, tight end Michael Mardis and defensive back Larry King earned honorable mention.
Bell, a first-team selection for the second year in a row, finished the year with 1,475 yards on 269 carries. It’s the third-best season in ISU history and included a school- and MVFC-record 349 yards against Drake.
Obaseki and Archie were also a first-team choice for the second year in a row, while Towalid — who set a school record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns — and Hileman were first-time first-teamers. Hileman was a second-team and all-newcomer choice in 2011.
Among the second-team selections, Washington was named to that team for the third consecutive season while Wozniak, Fritschle, Burnett and four-year starters Paswater and Borchers were picked for the first time. Burnett was on the all-newcomer team and an honorable-mention all-conference pick in 2010.
Connor Underwood earned honorable-mention plaudits as a redshirt freshman, while King was on the all-newcomer team in 2010 and Mardis, a Terre Haute South graduate, was named for the first time.
Indiana State’s 7-4 record gave the Sycamores three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1967-69. ISU also enjoyed a five-game winning streak for the first time since 1996 by beating Southern Illinois, MIssouri State, North Dakota State, Western Illinois and South Dakota, with three of those wins on the road.
Indiana State’s defense allowed 14.27 points per game, second in the conference and third in the nation, while its yards-per-game average of 296.4 was third in the MVFC and 15th nationally. The Sycamores were also third in the conference and sixth nationally in defensive pass efficiency.