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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 10 2012

Indiana State defense gaining notoriety

FARGO – Indiana State running back Shakir Bell has gotten so popular within the Missouri Valley Football Conference that he’s practically on a first-name basis with every team. With his statistics and awards, it’s easy to see why.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Sycamores have quietly gone about their business and it’s no longer monkey business. Once a laughing stock, ISU has emerged as one of the top defenses in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

“It’s definitely underrated around the nation but we don’t mind that,” said defensive end Ben Obaseki. “We like Shakir to get his publicity and we just do our thing on Saturdays.”

The ISU defense has given up just 13 points per game, which ranks them third in the FCS statistics. Opponents have scored only five offensive touchdowns in the last 21 quarters and the 44-0 win over Quincy College was the first shutout since 1996.

At 2-1 in the league and 4-2 overall, the Sycamores have a chance to get back in the league and national picture Saturday at North Dakota State. They’ve done it with steady growth under head coach Trent Miles, who has revived a program that lost 55 of 57 games from 2004-2009.

“This is the third year in the same system with the same coaches,” Miles said. “We have kids now who know what they’re doing and have been in some big battles and some big tests.”

ISU’s linebacker tandem of Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington are two of the top three tacklers in the Missouri Valley, but Obaseki is one of 20 players in the FCS named to the Buck Buchanan Award “watch list,” which goes to the best defensive player in the division. While Bell was one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award that goes to the best offensive player in the FCS, professional scouts have been taking notice of Obaseki.

“He had a pretty good game against us last year and a pretty good season last year,” said NDSU offensive tackle Billy Turner.

Miles said the NFL scouts stop by the ISU football office on a weekly basis, some teams more than once. There’s actually a debate on what would be his best position at the next level for the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Obaseki: defensive end, outside linebacker or fullback.

“I try to put it in the back of my mind,” Obaseki said. “But it’s also an inspiration to do even more than what I can.”

Even if that means switching to fullback.

“”I actually played running back in high school so I would be comfortable with it,” he said. “I would prefer defense but if they tell me to play fullback, I’ll do it with a smile on my face.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia