TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Indiana State was the lone Missouri Valley Football Conference team that didn’t play any games last season after the conference schedule was moved to the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sycamores head coach Curt Mallory thought it was the right decision then and still feels that way as his team heads into a 2:30 p.m. Saturday game against No. 2-ranked North Dakota State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
“I don’t second guess it, nor will I ever,” said Mallory, who has been the ISU head coach since 2017. “I believe then and I believe now that that was the best thing for Indiana State and I like the way our team is playing now.”
The Sycamores (4-4, 2-3 MVFC) have a .500 record through eight games this fall and have won two of their past three games, including an 11-point home victory against Youngstown State last Saturday.
“I made the decision, what was best for us and what was the best thing for us for the future of the program, the future of every young man,” Mallory said. “You may not see it now, but you will see it a year from now or two years from now, the development that we so desperately needed in that offseason.”
Mallory said there was disappointment among his players that they didn’t play last spring, but they banded together to prepare for this fall. Mallory said the coaching staff met with every player in the team individually last spring after the decision was made to not play.
“I can tell you we didn’t lose anybody,” Mallory said. “That’s a positive. They all stuck together so that says a lot about them. I got to be honest with you, they wanted to play so they were obviously disappointed.
“It’s hard when other teams are playing. There were quite a few teams that didn’t play, but we just happened to be the only one in our conference. They believed in what we were doing and they at least knew where we were heading. At the end of the day, they all stuck together and they kept moving forward as a group.”
Big Sky Conference members Montana, Montana State and Sacramento State were among the more notable programs that opted out of their conference schedules last spring.
Mallory said one of the factors that played into the decision of not playing last spring was some players on the roster needed more development. He thinks that development is starting to show up this fall.
“We’re playing some guys that are redshirt freshmen and I’m not so sure they would have been able to play or contribute the way they’re contributing had they played. I think they needed to get bigger, stronger, those types of things,” Mallory said. “I think the physicality that you face week in and week out, I don’t know if they would have held up, but you just never know. That’s what I believe in my heart. We didn’t play so you will never really know.”
Mallory said the biggest challenge for the Sycamores against the Bison on Saturday is matching NDSU’s physicality at the line of scrimmage. Mallory was an assistant coach for former Bison head coach Craig Bohl at Wyoming in 2015 and 2016.
“They’re very physical. It starts up front on both sides of the football. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical up front,” Mallory said. “I spent some time at Wyoming with coach Bohl for two years and obviously how it was built at NDSU and what we were trying to do at Wyoming was always going to start up front with physicality. That’s going to be the biggest challenge.”