In a four-year period, the University of Indianapolis football seniors have made history by putting up the most wins in four seasons. Despite a loss to Colorado State University-Pueblo in the NCAA Division II playoffs, the senior class has a few things to look back on. They have had 39 wins in the past four years, along with four consecutive GLVC titles, three postseason appearances and a postseason win in the first round of the 2012 tournament.
Redshirt sophomore running back Andrew Walker had at least one touchdown in every game this season, finishing the year with a total of 20 touchdowns. Redshirt senior wide receiver Reece Horn became the Greyhounds’ career leader in receiving yards while facing William Jewell on Oct. 31. During the same game he also surpassed 1,000-yards for the year to become the first Hound with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons. In his final game as a Greyhound, he also outdid UIndy’s single-season records for both receptions and receiving yards.
On defense, junior linebacker Rob Dury led the Greyhounds with 65 solo tackles for the year. On the line, senior Lee Campbell provided 7.5 sacks for a total of 38 yards, and also had the lone safety of the year for UIndy in the game against Truman State University. Fellow defensive backs redshirt junior Korey Rogan and redshirt sophomore Aeneas White had two interceptions a piece for the Greyhounds during the season.
A difference between the Greyhounds last postseason appearance and this one is that this year there are an additional four teams. The NCAA Division II tournament used to be a 24 team field, but has now moved to a 28 team field. Head Football Coach Bob Bartolomeo thinks it was a long, overdue change.
“I think it’s about time [that the additional teams were added]. I think the Division II has been slighted compared to Division III and I in the football championship series, in terms of the number of teams that have been omitted to the playoffs,” he said. “We were long overdue, coaches [have] fought long and hard to get the four extra teams in. I think the margin of error is still there in terms of who’s getting in and who’s not. ”
Prior to traveling west, Campbell looked forward to the game and what the Greyhounds needed to do.
“We have to stop the run. They’re not really a passing team. Two running backs have like 3,000 yards, which is pretty good,” he said. “If we stop the run then we can control their offense. For our offense, [they] just [need to] keep doing what they’ve been doing all season. Our play makers have to make plays.”
UIndy ended its 2015 football season over one thousand miles west of Key Stadium in Pueblo, Colo. on Saturday, Nov. 21. The Greyhounds defense held the ThunderWolves to just three points in the opening quarter, but CSU-Pueblo pounced in the second quarter racking up 21 points.
Despite the ThunderWolves 24-0 lead, redshirt senior quarterback Connor Barthel led his offense to a touchdown before heading into the break. Barthel’s handoff to Walker resulted in a 65-yard touchdown rush with 1:22 left in the first half. This was good for Walker’s fourth 50-yard or more run.
Freshman kicker Jacob LaFree started the second half with a 65-yard kickoff for the Greyhounds, which was followed by a three and out for the ThunderWolves. The third quarter proved to be silent as the score sat at 24-7 for its entirety.
At 13:04 in the fourth quarter CSU-Pueblo added to its score with a 38-yard field goal to make the score 27-7. On the ThunderWolves third possession of the quarter, Dury intercepted redshirt freshman quarterback AJ Thompson at the ThunderWolves 46-yard line.
With six minutes remaining in a game that would determine whose season is over, the Greyhounds could not capitalize on Dury’s interception. UIndy was three-and-out, giving the ball right back to CSU-Pueblo.
As the ThunderWolves received control of the ball, again, senior defensive line O’rion Elder intercepted Thompson for the second Hounds’ interception of the quarter. Elder returned the interception for 2-yards to move UIndy to CSU-Pueblo’s 35-yard line.
This opportunity proved to be different for the Greyhounds. Freshman wide receiver Malik Higgins set the Hounds up on CSU-Pueblo’s 4-yard line after snatching Barthel’s 31-yard pass. With the first down, Barthel fired at Horn, but it was an incomplete pass, which led to a 3-yard rush by Walker.
Just 1-yard from a touchdown, the Greyhounds relied on Barthel for a 1-yard rush. The result was a touchdown at 2:07 and a good extra point from redshirt sophomore kicker Brad Schickel. The score board read 27-14 ThunderWolves, and would remain that way for the next remaining two minutes. The loss to CSU-Pueblo brought an end to the Greyhounds’ season.
Prior to traveling to Colorado, Bartolomeo talked about what it takes for a private school to make the playoffs.
“You know it goes back to the program, and it goes back to the seniors, … the administrative support, all of those things go into enabling us to get where we are today,” he said. “The kids that worked hard, these seniors, have been nothing but phenomenal, in terms of their work ethic and leadership and those types of things. The support we get from the president to the AD [athletic director] for our program is awesome. All of those things collaborate and allow a private school to get in the playoffs and complete in the playoffs. We’re very much appreciate of all of those things.”