After coming off of a difficult 38-21 loss to Michigan State, the Wildcats will see a slightly easier opponent this Saturday in the Indiana State Sycamores. While Northwestern has struggled in the past against FCS opponents, namely their 2017 9-7 heartbreaking loss to Illinois State, the Sycamores shouldn’t pose too much of a threat. However, much is unknown about this Indiana State team given their recent history. Here are three things to know ahead of the Wildcats’ duel with the Sycamores on Saturday:
Indiana State did not play a 2020 season
As its already well known, all of college football was put into peril due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teams and conferences had to come up with plans to prevent outbreaks, which in turn caused some teams to cancel their seasons altogether.
Indiana State was one of said teams. The Sycamores announced that they would not participate in the 2021 spring MVFC on January 11. The last actual football game they played, prior to their 2021 fall opener against Eastern Illinois, was a 51-23 victory over Missouri State on Nov. 23, 2019. Additionally, the Sycamores finished 5-7 in 2019, so it’s ultimately unclear what product we’ll see on the field from them come Saturday.
Head coach Curt Mallory continues to try to turn things around
Curt Mallory, a former assistant coach at the University of Michigan, was initially hired by Indiana State way back on Jan. 23, 2017. Unfortunately for Mallory, his first year at the helm did not go according to plan, as the Sycamores went 0-11 under his watch. However, the following year, Mallory clearly made some changes, as his team proceeded to finish 7-4 and ranked Top 25 in the FCS with a big win over the No. 22 FCS team Illinois State and a very close 54-51 overtime loss to FCS No. 3 South Dakota. As previous mentioned, his team then went 5-7 in 2019 and did not play in 2020. As a whole, Mallory has led the Sycamores to a 13-22 record in his three years coaching the team (if you include their win over Eastern Illinois on August 28), and with a lack of returning production, that record may worsen in 2021.
Defensive back Michael Thomas leads the defense
Important note: This is not the Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints.
Now that that’s out of the way, Thomas is one of the few major returns the Sycamores have for the 2021 season. A good amount of their defensive backs from 2019 left the team, including Jonas Griffith, who was an FCS Second Team All-American in 2019. Their linebacker corps is depleted as well, with Clayton Glasco hitting the road after notching 86 tackles in 2019.
This is where Thomas comes in. He was a first-team MVFC honoree in 2019 and recorded 73 tackles on the season. He’ll be a threat to shutting down either Stephon Robinson Jr. orBryce Kirtz if the ‘Cats aren’t careful enough. While Indiana State doesn’t have too many big names to look out for defensively, Thomas is certainly one of them.