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Kevin Schnepf, Published October 13 2012

Schnepf: Two defensive TDs turn Towalid into ISU's hero

Fargo - Johnny Towalid walked out of a jubilant locker room directly into a cheering throng of Indiana State football fans.

“That’s my roommate,” yelled Aaron Archie as a trainer was cutting tape off his mammoth arms. “Listen to those cheers … that’s my roommate.”

Archie’s roommate was the hero in the Fargodome hallway after Saturday’s shocking 17-14 upset of top-ranked North Dakota State. Even though he plays defense, Towalid scored both of Indiana State’s touchdowns.

That’s right. Even though Indiana State mustered less than 200 total yards of offense, it walked out of the Fargodome with one its biggest wins in program history.

Towalid and the rest of the nationally ranked Sycamore defense was the reason why. Towalid’s two interceptions that he returned for touchdowns turned the Fargodome into a morgue.

Indiana State’s win not only sent a message that the Bison are indeed beatable, it also sent a message that the Bison aren’t the only team with a great defense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Archie went one more step in praising his defense.

“Johnny and Calvin (Burnett) are the best cornerbacks in our conference … in the nation actually,” Archie said. “Their cover skills are unbelievable at times.”

That’s quite a mouthful, considering many have long thought NDSU has the best cornerbacks in the nation with Marcus Williams and Andre Martin.

Not on this day, when Indiana State beat a No. 1-ranked team for the first time ever.

“There is nothing wrong with playing great defense and running the ball and preserving the right to punt,” said Indiana State head coach Trent Miles. “Johnny stepped up big and made some great plays.”

His first big play came in the second quarter when Bison quarterback Brock Jensen threw his first interception of the season. Towalid returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Sycamores a 10-3 lead.

His second big play came early in the fourth quarter when he snared a pass tipped by teammate Donovan Layne and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. ISU had a 17-6 lead.

The Bison receivers, who have exceeded all expectations this season with one great catch after another, had trouble getting open all day.

The Indiana State strategy was simple: Put nine defenders up to the line to stop the Bison running attack, and let Towalid and Layne cover the receivers.

“We told coach, put nine in the box and just leave me and Calvin in the out,” Towalid said. “You got to believe in us that we can cover anybody in the nation. We came out today and I guess we did a good job.”

And so did safety Larry King.

When the Bison were driving and threatening to take the lead late in the game, it was King who stepped in front of Bison receiver Ryan Smith and picked off Jensen’s pass to pretty much seal the win.

“I just read his eyes,” King said, referring to Jensen. “His eyes just got big when he saw his receiver from the opposite side of me. I just followed his eyes to the ball.”

“This is the biggest win that I’ve had and hopefully there will be more to come.”

Easier said than done in the Missouri Valley. Just ask the Bison.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com