The wait is nearly over … ISU soccer debut on Saturday | Indiana State Sports activities
Seems reasonable enough. But given the fire burned in the Sycamores to have been on the field for nearly two calendar years? Keeping the slow burn going before the kick-off on Saturday at 6 p.m. is perhaps a little easier said than done.
Even Mallory admitted that the anticipation of finally getting on the field caught him too.
“I told my wife that yesterday [Wednesday] felt like Thursday. I was a day ahead. We are all concerned. A lot of preparation has gone into this game. It’s very exciting to get started, “said Mallory.
After sitting out autumn 2020 with every other FCS team and then experiencing the wrong morning of an abandoned spring season, the Sycamores are not lacking in recognition when it comes to finally being able to play.
“I’m excited. I can’t say that I’m too nervous, I’m just ready to play,” said ISU Safety Michael Thomas. “I think we did the slow burn well. What we emphasized as leaders is that we focus on every single activity we do. We have to take each and every one of them seriously and that’s how we will be successful. ” . “
ISU wide receiver Dante Hendrix has literally counted the days. He knew the exact number during the Sycamores run on Thursday – 644 days since the last game.
“I’m extremely excited. I’ve had chills all week. I’ve waited a long, long time for this August 28th,” said Hendrix.
The sycamores are as healthy as you could expect in the opening. Anthony Thompson was named starting quarterback on Aug. 13, though Mallory said Kurtis Wilderman might get snaps, and Wildcat quarterback Michael Hauptert likely will, too. Hauptert will likely be more than just a fierce quarterback as he worked on his throwing during camp.
All other starters are expected to be on the field for the Sycamores. The depth map offered few surprises. Lucas Hunter and Henrik Barndt appear first at the defensive tackle spots. JJ Henderson, a Stetson transfer, is listed as a starter on the open cornerback spot.
As for eastern Illinois, the proud panthers have had hard times. Once a multi-year playoff qualifier for the Ohio Valley Conference, EIU hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015 and the Panthers are only 2-16 under coach Adam Cushing. The Panthers were selected last in the OVC preseason poll.
The Panthers were 5-1 in their spring season, their only win coming over Tennessee Tech. EIU gave up 33.5 points per game. Not that Hendrix attaches great importance to these numbers.
“You’re a good opponent and it’s a rivalry game so there will be a lot of emotion on both sides of the ball. As an offensive? I feel like we’re explosive. We want to come out and show that and show that ‘world, what we can do, “said Hendrix.
Otto Kuhns, who passed 509 yards in the spring, is the starter when Henry Woodberry moved on. Look out for Duke transfer Chris Katrenick, who wasn’t on the depth map but is older than Kuhns.
The EIU will work in the running back of Jaelin Benefield (258 yards). Like the ISU, the Panthers have an experienced reception corps led by Jay Vallie (18 catches, 190 yards) and DeWayne Cooks (14-241). Defensively, the EIU’s top three tacklers are back, led by preseason all-OVC linebacker Jason Johnson.
“The concern is that they have great skills. Their wideouts and running backs are very explosive. They can do it the distance. The key will be if we can slow them down with their skills. They are very disciplined and almost lead the land on penalties, “said Mallory.
For all the excitement of playing for the first time in two years, one thing hasn’t changed. A good start is critical to the success of any season. With just 11 games this season, a home win against EIU is essential if ISU is to have playoff hopes.
“The first game doesn’t change how we prepare or do our business from week to week. The coaching staff keep talking about a slow burn and that we’re not going to win the game today, but on Saturday at 6. We have to each other now Mentally prepare the day, take it seriously, and that will lead us to success, “said Thomas.
The ISU-EIU series is the longest against any other school for the Sycamores and the second most for the Panthers, who have just played against Illinois State more often.
The first game took place in 1901 according to the ISU accounts department, but there is disagreement among schools about how many meetings there were. ISU says this is the 88th edition, EIU says it is the 87th edition. There’s no dispute over EIU’s series lead of 43 wins, despite ISU claiming another win in the all-time series.
ISU has won the last two games in the series, including a 16-6 victory at Memorial Stadium in 2019.