It would have seemed logical to have started at UIndy, which is not more than a couple miles from home, and worked my way out into the state, but for various reasons, I didn't get to it until now. But the timing -- UIndy's best season in many years -- couldn't have been any better. After losses in its first two games, the Greyhounds have won eight consecutive games, their first eight-win season since 1998.
Strangely, despite the 33-18 non-conference win over Delta State University (Cleveland, Miss.) on Saturday at Key Stadium, the Greyhounds fell one spot -- from No. 4 to No. 5 -- this week in the NCAA Division II regional rankings. If UIndy wins at Urbana (Ohio) in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game this weekend, and if its ranking in the regional next week doesn't return to at least No. 4, that inexplicable quirk could cost the Greyhounds a chance to host a first-round NCAA Division II tournament playoff game. The top six teams qualify for tournament play, and in the first week of playoffs, Nos. 3 and 4 host games against Nos. 5 and 6 (Nos. 1 and 2 have byes).
In Saturday's game against the Statesmen, the Greyhounds were in control early, taking a 16-0 halftime lead and adding a field goal in the third quarter to expand the advantage to 19-0. But the Statesmen then scored on a field goal and a touchdown and two-point conversion to trail 19-11, and their momentum went into higher gear early in the fourth quarter when they recovered a UIndy fumble in their opponent's territory. But on their second offensive play after taking over possession, the Statesmen returned the favor when Patrick Bethley fumbled after a reception. The Greyhounds recovered ... and converted the turnover into points.
On a crucial fourth-and-one play-action play, UIndy quarterback Chris Mills hit tight end Adam Knies with a pass, and Knies rumbled to the 1-yard line, from which Klay Fiechter ran it in for the score. Not long after that, Fiechter scored again on a 65-yard run to put the game away.
The photo leading off the post was one of Mills' 28 pass completions on the night -- and one of 14 to Mar'quone Edmonds, who tied the school's single-game mark for receptions in a game for the second time this season. This catch came on the Greyhounds' last drive of the first half, and put the ball inside the 10-yard line after Edmonds successfully fought several Delta State defenders to gain extra yardage after the catch. Moments later, Mills and Edmonds connected again for a TD, giving UIndy a 16-0 lead. A photo of that catch comes immediately below.
Like I have done with all my visits to college campuses, I'll have a separate post -- most likely tomorrow -- on my non-football shots of the UIndy campus. So look for that up next. And for a full gallery of game photos, visit my site at SmugMug.
Mar'quone Edmonds grabs a Chris Mills pass in the end zone for UIndy's second touchdown of the game, closing the first-half scoring after the extra point kick. Below, Edmonds celebrates the score with a teammate.
By avoiding this tackle attempt (above) by Delta State's Rory Island (47), UIndy's Klay Fiechter had a free path to the end zone (below) for a 13-yard touchdown run, the Greyhounds' first score of the game. Scott Miller's extra point kick attempt was blocked.
Above and below: I figured out early on that it would be wise to keep an eye on Mar'quone Edmonds. These are two more of his school-record-tying 14 receptions.
UIndy defensive lineman Vince Maida (95) couldn't quite get his hands on this pass by Delta State quarterback Spencer Van Brunt, intended for wide receiver Lavon Downs, who is obscured in the photo above by UIndy defensive back Max Davis (48). Downs (2) caught the ball (below), but was tripped up almost immediately afterward for a modest gain.
Above and next two below: At the end of a short scramble to the left sideline, Delta State quarterback Spencer Van Brunt hit the ground so hard from a tackle by UIndy defensive lineman Justin Robinson that the impact jarred loose Van Brunt's helmet. He was not hurt, but UIndy was penalized on the play (second below).
Running back Rondreas Truesdale scored Delta State's first touchdown early in the fourth quarter on this 12-yard scamper to close UIndy's lead to 19-9. A successful two-point conversion on a Van Brunt pass (below) to Antwain Harvey (23) reduced the lead to 19-11.
Above and next two below: UIndy tight end Adam Knies is brought down a yard short of the end zone on a 37-yard pass play in the fourth quarter. Trenton Warren (27) made the TD-saving tackle for Delta State, but it proved to be only a momentary delay. Shortly thereafter, Klay Fiechter ran the ball in, wisely passing up this hole (below), where Statesmen defensive back Kenny Barnes (22) was waiting for him. Instead, Fiechter scurried around right tackle where he leaped into the end zone ... then got a congratulatory hug (second below) from Adam Knies. Fiechter wasn't done yet. See next series of photos.
Above and next two below: Fiechter went up the middle on this play, emerging (above) with a wide open field in front of him, with only Preston Felder (12) to get past (first below), which he did. Felder never got close on Fiechter's 61-yard scamper "to the house," as they say, and fans seated in the Stadium Club seats outside the north end zone salute his accomplishment (second below) as Fiechter crosses the goal line. The run accounted for more than half of Fiechter's 118 yards rushing (on 21 carries) for the night.
Above: A secondary reason I made a last-minute pitch to add UIndy to my tour this season was to see Paul Corsaro play at least once in his career. Corsaro's story is a stirring one. He was a prominent multi-sport athlete at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis (from which the last of my children graduated in 2003), setting school records in basketball and quarterbacking the football team to the state Class 4A title game against Lowell in 2005. He also battled an incidence of testicular cancer while in high school. After playing football one season at Division I Youngstown State University, he transferred to UIndy, a Division II school, where he again played both football and basketball. A serious football knee injury last season seemed to spell an early end to his college career, but UIndy made a successful appeal to the NCAA to grant Corsaro, now working on a master's degree, another year of eligibility for football, putting him in good position to enjoy some kind of championship -- conference, at the very least -- before he calls it a career. I also was hoping to see Corsaro's Roncalli football and basketball teammate Joe Britner in action. But while Britner -- a 6-8 offensive senior lineman for the Greyhounds -- was in uniform for senior day observance, he was not wearing any pads or helmet and did not play. UIndy sports information director Ryan Thorpe said Britner was injured in the second game of the season and hasn't played since.
Above: The Greyhounds' defense stifled this run by Brent Botill (33).
Above: A touch of pregame pageantry unique -- so far -- to my tour of Indiana small-college football stadiums, as the school mascot leads the Greyhound charges onto the field through dense plumes of smoke.
Above and next four below: Members of the UIndy Crimsonettes Dance Team entertained the crowd at halftime. The third shot below I was especially pleased with, and one I credit to the fast burst-rate feature on my Canon 7D, catching this dancer's splaying hair highlighted in a splendid backlight.
Above: UIndy players gathered on the field after the game for a moment of reflection.
Above: After wins, UIndy fans are invited onto the field to share in ringing the school's victory bell, which this youngster was doing. It's a tradition reminiscent of one practiced at the annual Monon Bell Classic between Indiana small-college rivals Wabash and DePauw, a game I am planning to revisit this Saturday at Crawfordsville.
Above: A view of the post-game on-field activity from the top row of the stadium seats.