Photo: Luke Nankivell
After a weekend of heartbreak, Drake hopes to learn from its tough game against Montana State and respond with a victory as the team heads to Indiana State to face the Sycamores. But its challenge won’t be simple.
Indiana State is a team with a lot of promise, mostly due to its strong running game. Shakir Bell and George Cheeseborough are a two-headed monster, that head coach Chris Creighton is definitely keeping an eye on; making sure that his defense is up to the task of stopping the Sycamore ground attack.
Drake will continue to try to keep its offense high-speed and high-octane, and that starts with fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski. As he climbs the Drake career record lists, he continues to shine and lead the Bulldog offense to new heights. The rushing attack, led by junior TJ James and sophomore Gary Scott Jr., hopes to keep up its steady improvement and keep the offense balanced.
Defensively, Drake hopes to dominate the trenches, where all-conference selections senior Brandon Coleman and fifth-year senior Tyler Moorehead anchor a defense that is near the top of the nation in sacks with 12.
To win this game, Drake needs to capitalize on its individual matchups. Here are the top five:
1) Drake Running Game vs. the Front Seven of the Sycamores
To keep the running attack of Indiana State off the field, the Bulldogs need to control the clock. That starts with James and Scott. If they can keep the chains moving, the Sycamore defense will get tired, allowing for a big play opportunity to open up, sinking the confidence of the Sycamores.
2) Defensive Line vs. Indiana State Offensive Line
To slow down the rushing attack of Indiana State, the defensive linemen will have to hold the line, allowing the linebackers to make plays. If they can do that, sophomore John Hugunin and Moorehead will be free to roam from sideline to sideline and make tackles.
3) Shakir Bell vs. Travis Merritt
According to Coleman, Bell is quite possibly, “a Heisman candidate” for the Football Championship Series and his containment will be the top priority for the Bulldog defense. Merritt, the all-conference junior, will be tasked with keeping him in check as the middle linebacker. If he can have a sideline-to-sideline impact, Drake should be able to force Indiana State into tough third down situations.
4) Drake Third Down Offense vs. Indiana State Pass Rush
Drake to this point has struggled on third downs, with only a 34 percent success rate, while Indiana State has been one of the top third down teams in the country so far. For Drake to succeed at this, Piatkowski has to make plays with his feet as well as his arm, and the Bulldog receivers have to make plays.
5) Special Teams
After two games, Drake’s special teams, especially both punt teams, have been a major weakness. Most notably, muffed punts and bad snaps have plagued the Bulldogs. The Bulldog special units have no choice but to change if they want to continue their winning ways.