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Indiana State at Purdue Preview

Purdue faces its first FCS foe in six years.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 North Alabama at Indiana State Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a tough opener that was a hard fought loss Purdue gets a bit of a break this week. All respect possible to Indiana State, but this game serves two purposes. First, the Sycamores will get a check to help finance their athletic department. Second, it is expected to be a tune-up for Purdue before the meat of the schedule hits.

When Big Ten teams schedule FCS teams it is expected to be an easy win. Some are dumb enough to schedule one of the four FCS teams from the Dakotas, who always put up a fight. Purdue has never lost a game to an FCS team, something Big Ten schools like Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa, and Minnesota can’t say. It hasn’t lost a game to a team outside the major college ranks since Wabash beat Purdue way back in 1922.

This is a game where Purdue should win by multiple scores. If not, it would be a disaster and ruin any further hope for the season.

Indiana State Sycamores

2021 Record: 5-6, 3-5

2022 Record: 1-0

Bowl Result: None

Blog Representation: Sycamore Pride

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 5-0

Last Purdue win: 38-14 at Purdue on 9/12/2015

Last Indiana State win: None

Head Coach: Curt Mallory (18-28 in 5th season)

The Season Thus Far

The season began under a dark cloud for Indiana State, as Caleb VanHooser and Christian Eubanks were killed in a fiery crash early in the morning of August 21st. Players Omarion Dixon and John Moore were also seriously in accident, while a fifth Indiana State student, Jayden Musili, was also killed. The team was able to overcome that tragedy less than two weeks later, as the Sycamores won their opener against North Alabama in dramatic fashion. Ryan Cole’s interception in overtime gave them a 17-14 win and a cathartic moment.

As a program Indiana State has made the FCS playoffs three times, last in 2014 where they even won a game. They play in the always tough Missouri Valley Conference, which regularly sends four or five teams to the playoffs and has powerhouses North Dakota State (currently No. 1 in the FCS) and South Dakota State (currently No. 3). Their schedule is absolutely brutal this season, as a non-conference game next week against Montana means they play the current top three teams in the FCS poll as well as No. 7 Missouri State and No. 24 Northern Iowa.

Who to Watch on Offense

Tee Hodge – RB – Hodge ran for 78 yards in his debut for the Sycamores last week. He is a transfer from Tennessee that did not play there much, but he spent two years in the program. He was a former three-star recruit and has FBS level talent. Most of his yardage came on one big 46 yard run last week.

Gavin Screws – QB – Screws is a sophomore from Jacksonville that made his career debut last week. This was after he played two years at Butler Community College as a JuCo. He threw for only 141 yards last week, with a TD and two picks. His TD came early in the fourth quarter and he then caught the two-point conversion pass to give them a 14-7 lead. He also lost a fumble, so three turnovers last week was a problem.

Kevin Barnett – WR – Barnett is another transfer from East Mississippi Community College and he had a solid debut last week. He caught a team best five passes for 38 yards. He is a big receiver on the outside at 6’4”, and given Purdue’s tackling issues last week that can be a conern.

Overall the offense was not great last week. They had just 141 yards through the air and 135 on the ground. Justin Dinka added 65 rushing yards, but the offense managed only 17 points against an FCS team that was 3-8 a year ago. The turned the ball over three times and converted only 2 of 15 third downs.

Who to Watch on Defense

Rylan Cole – DB – Cole had a fantastic week last week, notching eight tackles and a pair of interceptions. It was his pick on third down in overtime that sealed the game for the Sycamores too. He was one of the best players in Class 4A in the state of Indiana in 2020.

Geoffrey Brown – LB – Brown was a preseason Third Team Preseason All-American this year, and he played like it last week. He was all over the field with 15 tackles. As bad as the offense was, the defense was pretty good, as they finished with eight sacks as a team. Brown is 6’1” and 230 pounds from Fishers and is a forced to be reckoned with.

Kris Reid Jr. – DL – Reid is a senior and one of the most experienced players on the defense. He finished with six tackles and 2.5 sacks last week as he was a terror for North Alabama. He was part of a defense that gave up only 69 yards in the first half last week.

Who to Watch on Special Teams

Harry Traum – P – The offensive struggles last week meant Traum got plenty of practice. He puntsed seven times with a 40 yard average. Given the difference that Charlie Jones is as a return man, Traum will need a good game.

Ryan O’Grady – K – O’Grady was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals last week, but he only had a long of 26 yards as Indiana State could not finish drives in the red zone. He is only freshman, so it was a good debut.

Dakota Caton – KR, PR – Caton does a little bit of everything, as he returns kicks and he serves as a wide receiver. He had a pair of touchdowns on offense last year and is a versatile weapon.

Game Outlook

The best case scenario for Purdue is that we get a glimpse of our 2023 starting quarterback, be it Brady Allen or Michael Alaimo. That means the game is well in hand and Aidan O’Connell is safely on the sidelines. I believe the primary backup in case of injury is still Austin Burton, and we will probably see him a bit this year in specialized packages, but Alaimo or Allen is the future. If we see either one on Saturday that is a clue as to who is the leader for the future.

Purdue’s offense was pretty good last week. It put up over 350 passing yards and the running game was at least effective when Brohm chose to use it. The key there is “when he chose to use it”. Purdue passed 58 times last week, and if it had merely run straight into the line on the final two drives the end game is very different. In fact, I would say that choice cost Purdue the game. This is a week to work on more diversity. Get King Doerue over 100 yards.

Defensively, Purdue needs to tackle better. The other thing that cost Purdue game was very poor tackling on Penn State’s final drive of the first half. If it wraps up there, it holds the Nittany Lions to a long field goal attempt at best instead of giving up a long TD. Indiana State’s offense was not good last week. Don’t give them any help by refusing to tackle.

I’ll be blunt: if this is anything but a tune-up game where Purdue wins by multiple touchdowns it will be a gigantic warning sign of some huge problems. That’s what the 2013 game was against them.