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Around the Valley: Indiana State looking to improve offense after dismal 2021 season output

Sycamores were last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in points per game

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North Dakota State's Phoenix Sproles carries against Indiana State during their football game in 2021 in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
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FARGO — The 2022 prospects for Indiana State and hanging with the rest of the Missouri Valley Football Conference teams probably hinges on its offense. It was in the basement last year in the Valley averaging just 15.9 points per game.

The issue was addressed in the offseason. The Sycamores brought in a new offensive coordinator, Western Michigan assistant Mike Bath, and will have a different look at quarterback and running back.

Head coach Curt Mallory heads into his fifth season as the Indiana State head coach still looking to equal the turnaround of 2018. He inherited a mess going 0-11 his first season in 2017 but went 7-4 and finished third in the Valley the following year.

But since then, the Sycamores have gone 5-7, the team opted out of the COVID-19 stricken 2020 season and was 5-6 last season.

The Sycamores got Dakota Caton back after missing last year with an injury and the pandemic-plagued 2020 season. He was an all-Valley kickoff returner and dependable wide receiver in 2019.

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He’ll be opposite another all-league receiver in Dante Hendrix.

“Dante has been a two-year captain for us, a great leader not only at wide receiver but on the offense, where I believe we’ve taken the next step,” Mallory said.

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The Sycamores are hoping last year’s late-season improvement by University of Minnesota transfer Harry Van Dyne — a 6-foot-5, 220-pound receiver — will carry over into this season.

As to who will throw to the receivers remains to be seen. Three players are vying for the quarterback job in redshirt freshman Cade Chambers, Butler Community College (Kan.) transfer Gavin Screws and Colorado State transfer Evan Olaes.

Last year’s starter, Anthony Thompson, has moved on. Thompson completed 62% of his passes, but had eight touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Olaes redshirted last year at CSU and didn’t play. At North Las Vegas High School (Nevada), he set a state single-season record with 2,853 passing yards.

The Sycamores also went into the transfer portal at running back, getting Tee Hodge from Tennessee and CJ Cooper from Quincy (Ill.). Hodge played in just one game with the Volunteers in 2020. The leading returning rusher is Justin Dinka, who averaged 5.9 yards a carry in limited attempts.

As high school players, Dinka, who started his career at San Diego State, and Hodge were three-star recruits by Rivals.com. They’ll be counted on to replace leading rusher Peterson Kerlegrand, who had 830 yards last season.

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Indiana State hosts North Dakota State on Oct. 8, NDSU's first trip to Terre Haute, Ind., since 2017.

Missouri Valley Football Conference preview lineup:

Day 1: Illinois State Redbirds

Today: Indiana State Sycamores

Day 3: Missouri State Bears

Day 4: North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Day 5: Northern Iowa Panthers

Day 6: South Dakota Coyotes

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Day 7: South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Day 8: Southern Illinois Salukis

Day 9: Western Illinois Leathernecks

Day 10: Youngstown Penguins

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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