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Permalink 10/28/09 , CSN West, CSN Columns

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CSN West: A Leaf is Now at Least a Twig

floated rightBy Kent Schmidt, CSN West Columnist

Normally, I write about a playoff-caliber type team or go into the top teams within one of the “West” conferences, especially in late October. This week, however, I dive into a team that has just a single victory on the season. But that triumph is the best victory this team has had in three years.

Well, this team has not had a win in three years. In fact, the last time it won was Oct. 21, 2006 when it defeated Missouri State at home 28-22. That was until last Saturday when this team — the Indiana State Sycamores defeated Western Illinois 17-14.

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Yes, Indiana State no longer can be the laughingstock of the Missouri Valley Football Conference nor in the country. ISU broke a 33-game losing streak and provided second-year Coach Trent Miles his first victory as a Division I head coach.

Where did the Sycamores’ streak rank all-time in the Division I ranks?
It was the fourth-longest losing streak in the history of Division I football. Only Prairie View A&M (80 straight), Columbia (44) and FBS Northwestern (34) had longer droughts.

Georgetown and Idaho State share the nation’s current longest losing streak in FCS — at eight in a row.

Indiana State (1-7) won this game thanks to its running game. The Sycamores were able to garner a 240-yard rushing attack against WIU — spearheaded by quarterback Ryan Roberts’ 160 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the longest TD run in school history, a 90-yarder in the second quarter.

ISU’s defense bent mainly due to Western Illinois runningback Dre Gibbs (166 rushing yards), but it rarely broke. Eight Leathernecks’ series ended in ISU territory, but WIU scored only twice.

A four-yard touchdown run by Roberts with just more than four minutes remaining put the Sycamores in front of Western Illinois, and then the ISU defense held off the Leathernecks twice to secure the victory. The last WIU possession was stopped when Andrew Blackmon intercepted with no time on the clock.

The last time ISU won also was a Homecoming game in 2006.

Will the Sycamores have a chance for a second victory this season?
ISU just might have a chance at another victory. The Sycamores will have a tall test this weekend when MVFC co-leader Southern Illinois comes to Terre Haute, but the last two games could be possible victories when ISU travels to Missouri State and hosts winless (within the MVFC) North Dakota State.

The last time Indiana State finished with more than a single victory was in Coach Tim McGuire’s last season in 2004. ISU finished that season with four victories and seven losses. The triumphs came in its first five games with three nonconference victories against Eastern Illinois, Murray State and the lone conference victory was against Illinois State.

The last time ISU won more than a single MVFC game was in 2002 when ISU finished 5-7 overall with three of those within the conference against Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois.

Had there been times within the 33-game losing steak that ISU almost broke the streak?
Yes, ISU finished the 2008 season with an overtime game at home against Missouri State, but it fell by a field goal 27-24. Also, to start this season, ISU lost its opener in overtime to NAIA Quincy 26-20 at home.

In 2007, ISU almost won on the road at Southeast Missouri State but fell 13-10 within regulation play.

Has Indiana State ever been a playoff-caliber team?
It has been awhile, but the Sycamores were a FCS playoff team last in 1984 — ISU suffered a 42-41 first-round loss to Middle Tennessee State. That year’s Sycamores were ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of the season. That entire team was inducted into the Indiana State University Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, 2002.

ISU also received a postseason bid in 1983 when it earned its lone playoff victory — a 16-13 triumph over Eastern Illinois before losing in round two to eventual national champion Southern Illinois 23-7.

Current Head Coach Trent Miles was a freshman and a sophomore on those respective teams.

ISU last had a winning season in 1996 with a 6-5 mark.

I thought Coach Miles was a good pick to bring a winning attitude to this team that had seen losing for so long. Miles came to Terre Haute from the University of Washington after being a runningbacks and wide receivers coach last year. It took 19 losses before he got his first W.

While it’s yet to be seen if Miles will make Indiana State into a true winning program, he will be infamous with breaking this losing streak. I have a feeling, however, that Indiana State for sure will not be the laughingstock of FCS football any longer. This team has crept closer and closer to victories and finally got one. This might just be the springboard for more. I, for one, am hoping this is not just a mirage and ISU starts to put multiple-win seasons together.

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CSN WEST GAME OF THE WEEK

Weber State (5-3, 5-1) @ Montana (7-0, 4-0), 1:05, Mountainhese two teams shared the Big Sky title last year, but Weber State won the league’s playoff automatic bid by virtue of its victory over the Grizzlies in Ogden 45-28. Montana, however, got revenge against the Wildcats in the second round of the FCS playoffs when the Grizzlies got to host WSU and won 24-13.

Weber State will be hard-pressed to win in Missoula — a place it hasn’t traveled back with a victory since 1987. WSU, however, with three losses already likely can’t afford another one if it wants to be considered for an at-large FCS playoff bid. Montana, on the other hand, would likely wrap up at least an at-large playoff spot with a victory.

UM is averaging a BSC-best 44 points per game in four conference games, while WSU is allowing a league-low 19.2 points in conference play. The Grizzlies’ runningback Chase Reynolds leads the Big Sky with 13 touchdowns. WSU quarterback Cameron
Higgins has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception in his last three games. Turnovers have plagued Higgins in prior games.

I think the turnover margin will play a big key to this game on Halloween. I have a feeling it likely will come down to the end, but it will be hard to pick against the Grizzlies at home. I like them coming back with a late game-winning drive to win by a field goal. Montana 37 Weber State 34.

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CSN WEST NEWS & NOTES

- Eastern Washington’s Matt Nichols moved up to fourth on the Big Sky’s all-time career list in passing yards with 10,954 yards, and also moved to fourth all-time in total yardage with 11,588 when EWU defeated Montana State 35-24.

- The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has overturned the 2009 postseason ban for Eastern Washington this week. The move allows EWU to regain eligibility for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. That penalty was appealed by EWU shortly after the NCAA released its penalties in February from findings from a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07. The Eagles are 5-3 overall.

- Weber State freshman runningback Bo Bolen returned to his home state of Colorado and came through with a career game in place of all-conference performer Trevyn Smith. With Smith sitting because of a violation of team rules, Bolen rushed 37 times for a career-high 207 yards and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the 16th-ranked Wildcats’ 28-20 triumph over Northern Colorado.

- Idaho State dropped its 20th consecutive road game with a 40-12 loss at Northern Arizona on Saturday. Idaho State has lost 12 straight in Flagstaff dating to 1984. Idaho State tied Northern Colorado’s league record with its 14th consecutive conference road loss.

- Portland State has lost four straight home games for the first time since 1981 following the Vikings 34-31 loss to UC Davis.

- Montana’s Thomas Brooks-Fletcher (133) and Chase Reynolds (112) each rushed for more than 100 yards against Sacramento State in the Grizzlies 45-30 road victory. It’s the first time this season two Big Sky players from the same team have accomplished that feat.

- Southern Utah’s Erron Vonner had seven tackles, including three solo stops, a half-tackle for loss and led his team with two pass break-ups, but his big play was a fourth-quarter interception and return for a touchdown that iced the 35-10 victory for the Thunderbirds over North Dakota.

- Counting South Dakota State and Southern Illinois this year, only 17 teams in Missouri Valley Football Conference league history have started a season with at least five straight conference victories. All of the previous 15 teams to start 5-0 finished second or better in the league standings. Fourteen of the 15 earned playoff berths; and 14 won the title.

- Southern Illinois quarterback junior Chris Dieker will be out six weeks with a broken left clavicle that he sustained in Southern Illinois’ 27-8 victory over Youngstown State.

- South Dakota State defeated Northern Iowa 24-14 — the Jackrabbits first victory over the Panthers in four tries.

- Drake defeated Davidson 21-16 to set up a big Pioneer League contest this week when the Bulldogs host defending champion Jacksonville.

CSN WEST IN THE GPI

2. Great West Conference (27.78)
17. Cal Poly SLO (16.38)
22T. UC Davis (22.00)
24T. Southern Utah (24.25)
45. North Dakota (37.88)
48. South Dakota (38.38)

3. Missouri Valley Football Conference (31.95)
5. S Illinois (4.50)
6. S Dakota St (7.38)
9. Northern Iowa (10.13)
28. Missouri St (26.13)
32. Youngstown St (29.25)
46. Illinois St (38.00)
58. N Dakota St (47.25)
70. W Illinois (53.25)
102T. Indiana St (71.63)

4. Big Sky Conference (32.35)
3. Montana (3.25)
13. N Arizona (14.50)
15. Weber St (15.63)
19. E Washington (19.75)
24T. Montana St (24.25)
55. Sacramento St (45.25)
60. Portland St (47.63)
62. N Colorado (49.38)
101. Idaho St (71.50)

14. Pioneer Football League (76.23)
73T. Drake (55.50)
86. Dayton (64.00)
98T. Butler (71.38)
104. Jacksonville (72.13)
105. Marist (75.63)
111. San Diego (78.50)
120. Davidson (84.25)
122. Morehead St (86.00)
124. Campbell (87.00)
125. Valparaiso (87.88)