1 Flames fell to Indiana State in 2014, 38-19.
Liberty and the Sycamores met just a few years ago, in what ended up being Liberty’s only FCS Playoff season. The Flames lost to Indiana State in Terre Haute, 38-19, on September 27, 2014. It was a game that the Sycamores dominated on the ground, out-gaining Liberty 128-33 in rushing yards. LU was unable to overcome its inability to run the ball and its 4 turnovers on the afternoon. Both teams ended up advancing to the playoffs that season and neither team has made it back since.
Coach Gill says that the reminder of that game will help the team stay motivated this week. “They are a good football team, it doesn’t matter what their record is.”
2 The Sycamores are 0-2 to open the season.
They have losses to Eastern Illinois and Tennessee. Losing to the Volunteers, even by a lopsided margin of 42-7, is to be expected by an FCS team. Indiana State lost at home to Eastern Illinois, 22-20, to open the season. ISU led in the final minutes, 20-16, before Eastern Illinois scored a touchdown with just 3 seconds remaining in the game to secure the win.
Indiana State was picked 10th out of the 10 team Missouri Valley Football Conference in the preseason poll. The MVFC is widely regarded as the toughest FCS conference in the country. North Dakota State was the preseason favorite to win the conference. 7 of the 10 teams in the league are currently ranked in the STATS FCS top 25 poll – #2 North Dakota State, #4 South Dakota State, #6 Youngstown State, #18 Illinois State, #20 Western Illinois, #21 Northern Iowa, and #23 South Dakota.
3 Taking a look at ISU’s offense, or lack thereof.
Through the first 2 games of the season, Indiana State is averaging just 13.5 points per game. On the surface, it’s easy to think that is skewed by the game against SEC member Tennessee, but comparing the stats between their first 2 games are incredibly similar. They had 215 yards of total offense against Tennessee and 293 against Eastern Illinois. In both games, they struggled passing the ball, throwing for 226 yards in the two games.
Cade Sparks and Isaac Harker have each taken reps at quarterback in the first two games, but neither has been overly effective. Sparks is 11-of-26 passing for 165 yards and 1 touchdown. Meanwhile, Harker is 5-of-12 passing for 61 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
The Sycamores have more punting yards (566) this season than they do total yards of offense (508). They’ve also been particularly inept on 3rd downs, converting just 2 of their 22 opportunities on 3rd down, including 0-of-11 against Tennessee.
4 Name to watch: LeMonte Booker
The Sycamores are spearheaded by their redshirt-senior running back LeMonte Booker, who missed all of 2016 due to injury. Booker carried the ball 31 times for 154 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against Eastern Illinois. He added 15 carries for 76 yards against Tennessee. So far this season, he’s averaging 5 yards per carry while the rest of the team has 35 carries for 52 yards. Booker is currently ranked 14th in all of FCS in rushing yards. Prior to missing the 2016 season, Booker excelled as a kick returner while also rushing for over 400 yards in 2015.
5 Familiar face on other sideline.
Former Liberty kicker John Lunsford’s brother plays for Indiana State. Andrew Lunsford is the Sycamores’ kickoff specialist. Of his 7 kickoffs this season, 3 have been touchbacks. The redshirt-senior transferred to Indiana State from Webber International prior to the 2015 season. This is his 3rd season as ISU’s kickoff specialist. He has recorded touchbacks on 39 of his 109 kickoffs during his time at Indiana State.
John was a standout kicker for the Flames from 2012-205. He finished his career as the NCAA record holder for 50-plus yard field goals by an FCS kicker with 12. He’s also the school record holder with 94 consecutive extra points made and 150 total extra points made. He ranks second in school history in career scoring, field goals, and extra point attempts.