Piggy-backing off Galen’s TMI yesterday, today we tackle the football side of the Indiana State Sycamores, Penn State’s season-opening opponent.
Indiana State was bad.
No, seriously, they were really bad.
From 2005 thru 2009–five seasons–the Sycamores won two (2!) games. That’s it. Just two. In that time, they went on the nation’s longest losing streak, finally stopping the bleeding at 33 straight triumphs for whatever team was on the opposite sideline. Current head coach Trent Miles was hired right in the thick of that losing streak. Though Miles ended the streak with a win over Western Illinois in 2009, his first two seasons saw just one win and 22 losses.
But why is Miles still head coach? Well, because in 2010 he guided this program to more wins in one season than it had in the previous five years combined. Last year, the Sycamores not only won their season opener for the first time since 1996, but broke through at 6-5 overall by the time it was all over. The last time Indiana State finished above .500? You guessed it: 1996. For this achievement, Miles was awarded a five-year contract extension thru 2015, and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year.
It’s been a work in progress for this coaching staff, however. In Miles’ first year, 2008, the Indiana State defense gave up an average 413 yards and 42 point per game. Not helping matters was the offense, which scored eight points per game. You know there’s an issue when you have to actually spell out the number (8) for offensive points scored per game. In 2009, things weren’t much better, but were good enough to translate into at least one win. The defense now only gave up 388 yards and 35 points per game. Though, the offense only improved to nine points per game scored.
Then came 2010. The offense finally woke from its slumber, with a potent balanced attack that averaged 411 yards–193 rushing and 218 passing–per game. Though the defense didn’t make the kind of improvement the offense did from 2009 to 2010, it didn’t get worse, allowing 387 yards per game. But since 2008, the scoring defense went from allowing 42 points per game, down to just 30 per game last year.
What to Look for in 2011…
Joe Paterno will tell everyone that this is a “good, solid football team.” Everyone will laugh. Rightfully so, in most cases when FCS (I-AA) teams visit BCS “Big Six” stadiums. Penn State will more likely than not win this game. But Indiana State does have at least one tool in its box to give Penn State some early headaches, specifically on defense where some question marks still stand.
Ronnie Fouch arrived at Washington in 2007, assuming the role of Jake Locker’s backup. Then in 2008, when Locker was lost for the season after just four games, Fouch stepped in and started the final eight games for the Huskies. He completed 113-of-250 passes for 1,339 yards and four touchdowns. Fouch’s top passing game that year came against Oregon State, when he was 17-for-32 for 276 yards. In 2009, Fouch fell back to the second-string, and only attempted one pass the entire season. Understandably, Fouch transferred. He landed at Indiana State.
In 2010, Fouch played and started all 11 games for the Sycamores, completing 168-of-289 passes for 2,252 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 2,252 passing yards finished second in school history while his 20 touchdown passes are a school record. Fouch’s 142.96 passer rating was fourth in the league and 18th nationally.
But the Sycamores won’t have to lean on Fouch’s passing game nearly as much as they did in 2010. That’s because this team returns 19 starters from last season. Ten of those starters return on defense, the unit most likely to spark what could be a very special season for Indiana State. The Sycamores only outscored opponents by an average score of 31-29 last season. If that margin can be widened even a little bit, with the dynamic offense and a decent defense, a shot at the MVC title isn’t out of the question.