FARGO — Forgotten, but not gone. That probably best describes Indiana State heading into the 2021 fall season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Sycamores were the only team to opt out of the spring season, citing too many games in one calendar year was risking the health of its team. But they’re back — and will bring one of the more veteran teams in the conference.
They may not have played, but nobody really left, either. The Sycamores have an uncanny 50 players in either their fourth, fifth or sixth season of school. Of the 25 seniors eligible to come back, 23 made the commitment.
“We’re all anxious to get back to playing football, which has been a long time,” said head coach Curt Mallory.
Indiana State’s last game was Nov. 23, 2019, when it handled Missouri State 51-24. The Sycamores were initially on board with the postponed fall season, but made the decision to opt out of the spring in January.
Mallory called it the hardest decision he’s made in his coaching career.
“When we made the decision, it was the best decision for Indiana State and where we were at,” Mallory said. “We felt like it was the best thing for the future of the program.”
They did go through an extended spring football season with an emphasis on weight training. The team had 100 players in the spring and lost only one.
“We saw some good gains,” Mallory said. “On the negative side, we haven’t played football. We haven’t played in a game.”
At least the Sycamores will get going this fall before anybody else in the Valley. They play Eastern Illinois on Aug. 28 in the “Week Zero” game and already began practice this week.
Like Illinois State, the Sycamores didn’t get much respect in the Missouri Valley preseason team with no first or second team selections, despite wide receiver Dante Hendrix being a first team selection in 2019.
Hendrix, offensive lineman Isaiah Edwards, defensive lineman Inoke Moala and safety Michael Thomas were all honorable mention picks.
ISU will have to find a quarterback. Junior Kurtis Wildeman played in nine games in 2019, completing 116 of 169 passes. Senior Anthony Thompson transferred from FBS Northern Illinois.
The Sycamores also got an interesting transfer in junior receiver Harry Van Dyne from Minnesota.
“We’re looking forward to having him step in,” Mallory said.
Here's a look at the schedule for the Kicking Through COVID series:
July 30: Illinois State
Aug. 1: Missouri State
Aug. 2: North Dakota
Aug. 3: North Dakota State
Aug. 4: Northern Iowa
Aug. 5: South Dakota
Aug. 6: South Dakota State
Aug. 7: Southern Illinois
Aug. 8: Western Illinois
Aug. 9: Youngstown State