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Ravens Release Keith Wenning

Photo credit: Kurt Hostetler, The Star Press

Keith Wenning, always a Cardinal

It’s never been said that the NFL was anything close to easy or fair, and I’d say with the news out of Baltimore that Keith Wenning has been released by the Ravens, that point just hits closer to home than usual for Ball State fans. After being a 6th round draftee last spring, Wenning spent the 2014 season on the practice squad while the Ravens carried only two QBs on their game day roster. With the offseason pickup of Matt Schaub, Keith’s window was slowly closing. Compounding that fact was undrafted free agents that the Ravens needed roster space and dollars for, so Keith was shown the door.

From all accounts around the Ravens and the Wenning camp, Keith certainly was working like an all-star, frequently the first in and last out of workouts and practices. That should come as no surprise to BSU fans, and neither should the universal praise of Keith as a person and player. It’s a harsh reality that often times in the NFL, and any for profit business for that matter, sometimes hard work, attitude, and skill pale in comparison to money and numbers. A harsh reality but a reality all the same.

In my heart, I know that this is the start of Keith’s journey and nowhere close to the end. Of the myriad players I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and chat with over my time covering Ball State, none have been as humble, sincere, and just all around decent, the way that Keith was. Whether it’s football, business, or just life in general, Keith will be tremendous and a tremendous representative for Ball State and its football program.

Philosophically, though, it is somewhat disappointing that players like Keith struggle to make it in professional sports while countless headcases, discipline problems, and legitimate delinquents make roster after roster. Something isn’t right with that situation.

Softball Heads to South Bend for NCAA Regional Play

CEsLRzLW0AAxkkkThe Ball State softball team learned it would be traveling to the South Bend Regional to open play in the 2015 NCAA Division I Softball Championships, the NCAA announced Sunday night on ESPNU.

The Cardinals (33-23), the Mid-American Conference Tournament Champions, will open the South Bend Regional with a game versus in-state rival and No. 16 seed Notre Dame (40-13). The other half of the bracket features Northwestern (28-21) out of the Big Ten and Kentucky (29-24) out of the Southeastern Conference.

The 64-team championship field was selected from 283 NCAA Division I institutions sponsoring the sport of softball. Of the 64 teams, 32 received automatic qualification as conference champions with the remaining best 32 teams selected on an at-large basis. Sixteen teams were seeded and each of the seeded teams will be placed at one of the regional sites.

The tournament opens with 16 four-team double-elimination regionals held at campus sites May 15-17. The 16 regional champions advance to the best-of-three Super Regionals, which will also be held at eight campus sites May 21-24. The eight Super Regional champions punch tickets to the 2015 NCAA Women’s College World Series, which will be held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, May 28 to June 3.

Ball State will be making its third appearance in the NCAA Division I Softball Championships and first since the 2010 season. The Cardinals’ first NCAA Championship appearance came in 1998, when Ball State suffered losses to Michigan (12-1 in 5) and Illinois-Chicago (6-1) in Ann Arbor. Ball State traveled to the Knoxville Regional in 2010, falling to host Tennessee (5-0) and Louisville (5-1).

The Cardinals advanced to the NCAA Championship by winning last week’s MAC Tournament with a perfect 4-0 record in the event. Ball State senior outfielder Hanne Stuedemann was named the tournament’s MVP after hitting .462 (6-for-13) over Ball State’s four games, including a pair of home runs. In the championship game, Stuedemann went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning.

Junior pitcher Nicole Steinbach and junior second baseman Emily Dabkowski also earned spots on the MAC All-Tournament Team. Steinbach went a perfect 4-0 in the circle, allowing just seven earned runs over 21.2 innings of work. Dabkowski hit .333 (5-for-15) over Ball State’s four games, including two home runs, while driving in six runs and scoring five times.

Looking for a New Poker Home? Try 888 Poker

PokerChipsIf your football days are long past you and the cleats are already hung up, then you might be interested in playing another competitive game – online poker. Sure, poker is an entirely different type of game, but it’s one where skilled players win big-time money over the long run. And one way that you can bring this internet poker dream closer to reality is by taking advantage of a good sign up offer. Assuming you’re looking for help in this matter, you should choose the 888 sign up offer, and here are a few reasons why.

1. You get $88 Free just for creating an Account – No Deposit Necessary
For those still dipping their toes in the online poker world, there’s no finer bonus than 888poker’s because you get $88 free and upfront. All you have to do is create an account at the site and you’ll receive this money, which can be used in real money cash games and tournaments. If you lose, then it’s no problem because it isn’t even your $88. But if you win, then you’ll keep building your bankroll and working towards more profits.

2. You can get Another $10 Free through the Right Affiliates
Every little bit of money helps in your beginning online poker days, which is why you’ll want to take advantage of another free $10 that’s available too. The only catch with this one is that you must sign up through the right affiliate; I signed up at 888poker through PokerStop.com and got my free $10, but there are other poker affiliates that you can get the same deal through.

3. You’ll play for a 100% Match Bonus up to $400
Once you make a deposit, you’ll be able to earn the largest portion of the 888 sign up offer – a 100% match bonus up to $400. So if you deposited $200, you’d have an opportunity to collect another $200 in bonus cash. To earn the match bonus, you must generate Bonus Points (BPs) in real money poker games. Every 10 BPs results in a bonus dollar, and it requires paying $1 in rake to get 2 BPs. In short, you’ll only need to contribute $5 rake in real money poker games to get each bonus dollar.

4. You receive 25% of your Match Reward Upfront
One final aspect of the 888poker bonus worth discussing is how you get 25% of your match bonus right away. Using the $200 deposit example again, you’d receive $50 upfront, in addition to the $88 and (possibly) $10. Do the math and that’s $144 in free money immediately – plus the ability to earn the remaining $150 of the match bonus! With everything that’s delivered upfront, it’s not hard to see why 888poker is so great for beginners.

Cardinal Fans… OTP and Some Great Kids Need YOUR Help!

Kids CenterIf you’ve been reading the Pylon since its inception back in 2008, you probably have realized a few things. First and foremost, you’d have noticed that we are unhealthily obsessed with Ball State athletics. To that, I have no defense and I make no apologies. Chirp chirp till I die. You would have also noticed that I very rarely put my personal business out into the blogosphpere for a whole host of reasons. Today, we focus less on the former and more on the latter, as the curtain gets pulled back a little on your fearless leader here at OTP with an opportunity to make a difference in some amazing kids’ lives.

Those that know me best have heard me laud my brother John as perhaps the most amazing person that you’ll ever meet. Musical ability for days and a photographic memory are what people notice initially but the myriad personality traits my brother has that I could never hope for are unbelievable. He’s kind. He’s sincere. He’s affectionate. There’s a magnetism and a genuineness that I’ve not seen in anyone else.  John is also autistic, but that disability doesn’t define him. It’s because of my parents and the support they’ve provided and the numerous angels John has in his life that have allowed him to succeed.

The Mom’s occupation is development and fundraising, but her passion is children, all of whom (much like my brother) were dealt a hand in life that makes things you and I find easy and simple sometimes exceptionally difficult. She currently works with a population of those very kids at the Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies in Louisville. It’s not hyperbole when I say that the Kid’s Center is truly doing God’s work by providing these children physical, occupational, and speech therapies. More than that, they’re providing them hope and a chance to succeed. They help children find their ability and not focus on their disability. It’s powerful stuff, even for your neighborhood Ball State blogger. In a world that seems to grow more troubling and negative by the day, there are miracles occurring each and ever minute at a place like the Kids Center.

How you can help me help them is by opening your wallet for these kids. Unlike some charities and goodworks, money isn’t lost to overhead and no donation is too small. Remember above how I said that children aren’t turned away because of their families’ ability to pay? That happens because of generous donations from people just like you and me. $20 provides an hour of therapy for a child in need. Every $1,000 raised funds therapy for an entire year for a child in dire need of a break. To put that in perspective, to fund a child for an hour of therapy, you’d need to trade off:

  • One good 6-pack and a Chipotle burrito… or…
  • A large Papa John’s pizza delivered… or….
  • 4 Starbucks runs… or…
  • Three packs of cigarettes (that’s about what they cost these days, right?)… or…
  • * insert something you don’t really need that costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 *

That doesn’t seem like much for an hour of therapy. Looking for a more Cardinal-riffic way to make your donation count? Might I suggest…

  • $41.39 (The score of the last BSU win over Indiana)
  • $30 (a dollar for every win at BSU that Pete Lembo has accrued)
  • $92 (a dollar for every Keith Wenning BSU TD in his career)
  • $1,000,000 (seems like a nice round number)

The main fundraising push for the Kids Center is the upcoming Walk and Roll, where Kids Center families and supporters will come to downtown Louisville for a two-mile downtown stroll or roll depending on their ability or accommodation. I’m asking you, Friends of the Pylon, or friends of mine, for your support in this endeavor. It is people like you that can give a child therapy, hope, and their own little miracle. The amounts above are only suggestions. Please give what you feel comfortable and no donation is too small. How you would do that

  • Click through to the Kids Center fundraising page here.
  • Click on that big blue button that says (appropriately enough) “SUPPORT ME”
  • Fill in your donation via their secure credit card form. In the “Message to Becki” section feel free to put something like “OTP sent me” or “Go Ball State” or something to make our Cardinal voice heard.
  • Submit the info and pat yourself on the back for doing some good on a Thursday. Simple, really.

Scientists have actually proven that our brains’ pleasure receptors benefit from the act of generosity. So it feels good to donate money to worthy causes like helping kids in need. I know you can do it, friends. Thanks in advance for your support and I do hope you can join me in making sure these kids have the therapy and hope they need.

Post-Derby Thoughts on the Ozzie Mann Transfer News

CPL and Ozzie Football after the Indiana State debacle (Photo credit Alaina Jaye Halsey)

CPL and Ozzie Football after the Indiana State debacle (Photo credit Alaina Jaye Halsey)

The first weekend in May is one of the only weekends of the year when my sporting attention is almost entirely focused elsewhere. As a native Kentuckian, there are few moments when people are inquisitive about my home commonwealth in a positive manner instead of the usual, “Do you wear shoes?” or “Do you enjoy mayonnaise sandwiches?”  sort of witty repartee I usually endure. Derby Weekend is that weekend. The splendor of the horses, the possibility of getting rich, the inherent caste system that exists at the track, and the free-flowing booze are just some of the reasons why sports eyes the world over, and especially mine, focus on Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

So it was a little out of character for me to even be checking email on Derby Saturday, but with the release of Ozzie Mann’s transfer news, my Derby Saturday took a small little detour. If you’re following the Pylon on the OTPcast (and you should here on itunes or Stitcher, because it’s awesome) you’ll know that Jason and I talked a little about this potential thing a few weeks ago. The Cardinal QB backfield was a crowded place as is with Jack Milas, Ozzie Mann, and David Morrison. And let’s not forget that true freshman Riley Neal is coming in this summer. I believe my exact words were, “I’d be surprised if all of those QBs were still on the roster when fall camp opens” and sure enough that has happened with Ozzie Mann announcing he is transferring from Ball State effective immediately.

On the surface and in a visceral way, it’s a loss for the program as depth at the QB position is always a nice thing to have. Some will point to Mann’s inability to hold on to the starter’s job last season as some sort of indictment on his talent or skills, and that would be a foolish thing to do. Mann at the dawn of 2014 had a perfect storm of factors beyond his control come into play that made him succeeding difficult if not outright impossible. I don’t think I am the only one to think the first few games of 2014 had exceptionally pedestrian playcalling with a team in search of its identity.

Quake found it hard to be the playmaker we all knew possible when defenses knew that was about all the Cardinals had to go on when Jordan Williams got dinged up in the season opener. At some level, it just seemed that the team under Ozzie’s command was just cursed. Everything that could have went wrong went wrong for BSU, as games that were one possession affairs we had all grown used to winning in the early Lembo years now all went the opposition’s way. Whether that was new coordinators, new skill players, injuries, or just bad juju left over from the successful years before it is anyone’s guess. But what isn’t up for debate is whether or not it was all Ozzie. It wasn’t. Though Cards fans who want to think so will point to one game: Indiana State.

To call the Cards’ loss to the Sycamores anything other than a complete and abject failure would be to ignore the obvious. We wrote as much last fall. Fans will point to the fact that the Cards lost to the Sycamores as some sort of litmus test for the Ozzie Football experiment. Others will point to the confusion and chaos on the last play that resulted in time expiring and Ozzie’s inability to either get out of bounds or throw it out of the end zone, but to focus solely on that would be ridiculous. There was more than enough blame to go around to peg all of it on a relatively new starter who set personal career marks for yards, completions, and attempts in that particular outing.

So the book on Ozzie Mann in Muncie closes before it really got going, but can you really blame him? The writing was/is on the wall that his ability to start, to lead, and to win as QB1 was only coming if those above him on the depth chart couldn’t fulfill their duties and those below him didn’t overtake him. You can’t fault an athlete, a competitor, a warrior, for wanting to be the person who succeeds or fails on their own. It’s what got him to Muncie and on the roster in the first place. We’ll be rooting for Ozzie wherever he lands, and wish him well on his transfer process.

New Ball State Football Field Design Released

If you follow any of the social media accounts even remotely connected to Ball State football then you should be aware that in the last week or so since the spring game, the field turf at Scheumann Stadium has been getting removed to make way for a new field. Yesterday saw the official release of the design that’s going on the field turf…

Field_I.2

Unless I’m missing something the key differences are the black and red ringing the field and the end zones being red fill with white text, whereas now there is no ring at all, and the end zones are just red lettering. It’s a clean design, it’s not crazy different (a la Eastern Washington’s all red turf that makes your eyes bleed), and most importantly: it’s something new. Positives all around. Your thoughts?

 

Join the Hardcore Ball State Fans on the OTP Boards

OTP Logo 200As of about 96 hours ago, there were two places were Ball State fans congregated. For your sarcastic news and notes, you’d hit up here at the Pylon, which you’re already familiar with otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. However, there was another Ball State hangout that got a fair bit of traffic its own self in BSUFans.com, the messageboard home of the hardest of the hard and the most fanatical of the fanatics. It was the home of notorious Cardinal fans, alums, parents, and people you’d be surprised to know were active posters.

Recently though, BSUFans seems to have met its demise, if not permanently, at least until the domain registration issues can be worked out. But the business goings on in the internet and domain servers are no reason for Cardinals fans to lose their place to congregate. Hence, the recreation and relaunch of the OTP Boards. There are two ways to get there, one being clicking here, and the other being clicking over in the left hand sidebar under the appropriate heading of “OTP Messageboard”. You’ll need to register to post, but that’s a painless process and not the same sort of verification thing that BSUFans was. So there’s that.

The site is new and still evolving, but there is a suggestion thread for you to recommend changes or set up features that would make your board experience a more pleasant one. So come on over, we don’t bite. and get your Chirp on at the OTP Boards.

[VIDEO] New Cardinal Cabanas Coming to the Scheu for Ball State Football

I remember back when I was a student, I was fortunate to watch a couple of games from the old Ball State Stadium pressbox suites. “Suites” was a loosely defined term back then, as the amenities were limited to some mini ham sandwiches and metal folding chairs. Ambiance, this did not have. Since then, the powers that be in Muncie have improved nearly every facet of gameday operations, including the luxury boxes at The Scheu.

No one can argue that the luxury boxes are gorgeous. Those frigid days in central Indiana in late November? Doesn’t bother suite-goers at all as they are behind glass. But it’s biggest draw (weather protection) can also become its greatest curse in that there is a significant removal from the true football game experience. You can’t hear the crowd. You can’t feel the band. But no longer are your premium luxury options limited to private boxes and a thick barrier between you and the Cardinal football experience. Ball State has a new and (in my opinion) awesome option that lets you be as close to the action as possible, all while eating and drinking with up to 24 of your closest friends…. the all new Cardinal Cabanas!

What’s the Cardinal Cabanas? Let General Manager of Ball State properties Chris Ulm explain…

Green space and cold beers? I’m sold. Here’s the print version of the Cabana details: Cardinal Cabana Information

So contact Chris Ulm and bring your drinking boots to The Scheu on gameday Saturdays, Cabana-style!

Ball State Softball Proves Again BSU>IU

Other StuffYou’d think that by now fans of That School in Bloomington would understand their hierarchy in the college sports field in Indiana. I’d say somewhere right above Ivy Tech and Purdue-Calumet but that’s probably being generous to the Hoosiers. Ball State football has done their part the last three times they’ve faced IU to demonstrate their dominance, and tonight Ball State softball jumped in on taking a few swings at the Indiana piñata, stomping out the Hoosiers 19-9. I’m sure it would have been worse had the game not ended in the fifth inning because of the run rule, you know, the one that exists to stop clearly superior teams from continuing to embarrass lower echelon teams as run after run after run after run pours on.

That’s right, ladies and gents. They were so concerned with the lack of performance from Indiana, they stopped the game rather than make them continue. Gosh, that feels good to write. It probably feels good to read. Go ahead, read it again. I’ll wait.

Selena Reyna was the biggest culprit of this thumping, dropping two homeruns, one of which was a grandslam that sent the contest to the run rule, along with a single and a walk. That’s a hell of a day at the dish, and I’d say that the junior from Houston earned an extra orange slice and a Capri Sun for that. The whole team performed well, though. Ten Cardinals had at least one hit, and the Cards scored in every inning. And the most important thing, Indiana did far worse.

It was the 400th career win for head coach Tyra Perry and I’m glad they scheduled  such a lower-caliber team to pick up the milestone win against.

Ball State Spring Game Recap and Thoughts

logo200Spring Games the nation over are a mixed bag of results. You have the small-market teams that struggle for eyeballs and attention that do more for the fans than progression of the installed offensive and defensive gameplans. You have your large blue bloods that generate upwards of 50,000 for a glorified scrimmage with playcalling close to the chest and a cat that never gets let out of the bag. For Ball State on Saturday, it was certainly more of the former than the latter, but there was critical pieces of information that I was able to obtain that make me feel alright or dare I say positive about where the Cardinals are at for their 2015 campaign.

The position groups…

  • Quarterbacks: The biggest thing I take away from Spring Game 2015 is that this offense is Jack Milas’ to do with what he wants. There’s an “-OR-” in the spring depth chart indicating the starting job was still an up for grabs TBD thing, but Milas’ grasp on the QB1 spot is as tight as its ever been. As it should be. Jack looked good from the get go and the offense was humming, marching down the field on its two opening drives with ease. Ozzie Mann saw time as well, and he showed a gorgeous deep ball on a 65-yard completion with near perfect accuracy, but the starting spot is firmly in the grasp of Jack Milas. Honestly, I’m pretty pleased with what I saw from both, as I don’t think there is going to be a steep drop off should something occur or a contingency plan is needed. I don’t think either are to the level of being able to positively determine the outcome of a game based solely on their skill or will a la Keith Wenning or Nate Davis, but I have moved the QB position from “concern” to “satisfied”, and that’s a good thing.
  • Running Backs: The biggest offensive concern going in was how would Quake Edwards be replaced. Life after Quake won’t be the same, but it won’t be nearly as bumpy as expected, thanks largely to youth. The standout unexpected performance of the spring game was freshman James Gilbert who looked speedy, elusive, and explosive. He will give MAC defenses fits and was almost reminiscent of Corey Sykes. Sophomore Darian Green was somewhat limited in his opportunities but made the most of them, also demonstrating explosion and quickness. Teddy Williamson was Teddy Williamson, whose “average” is still pretty darn good. All in all, it was an exhale moment as the lack of Quake is going to take some getting used to but the depth at running back was of critical importance to see and feel given the injury to Horactio Banks.
  • Wide Receivers: If you wanted a position group that you could watch that would give you an almost giddy excitement and optimism about the 2015 campaign, then this is the group to watch. The depth is outstanding, the skill is top-flight, and the ability for a big play is there on every snap. Jordan Williams? Star. Still. KeVonn Mabon? Star. Still. I hesitate to say this in terms of expectations, but I think Corey Lacanaria has the opportunity to be one of the best in the MAC from the slot. The thing that gave me the greatest enjoyment was knowing the others in the group like Chris Shillings, Aaron Hepp, Efe Scott-Emuakpor, or Jordan Hogue can spot relieve or step up themselves. It’s not hyperbole to say this is the deepest receiver corps in my time covering the team, by far the best group in the MAC, and I would argue top-to-bottom is probably in the level of most Power 5 conference schools.
  • Offensive Line: As we talked about with former Card Ben Jacobi on the OTPcast a few weeks ago, there’s probably no harder group to judge than the offensive line. Either fans don’t know what to look for or it’s hard to see what’s going right given the only time a play is deemed successful for the group is when something bad (sack, penetration, etc) doesn’t happen. It’s easy to overlook the good. On Saturday, the offensive line had exactly the type of day I wanted to see, given that this is an experienced and deep unit. Let’s not forget that every starter from last year is returning. I seem to remember a few years ago when that happened that BSU rattled off 12 straight wins. I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Jacob Richard, Jalen Schlacter, Jeremiah Harvey, Steve Bell, and Drake Miller may very well hold the difference between celebrating the holidays at home or coming back to work in middle January with a nice tan.
  • Defensive Line: What was a concern before the game has quickly become a significantly less worrisome thing though still an area to watch. New to BSU transfer Josh Posley looked explosive and dangerous as an end rusher and showed signs of a Brandon Crawford type of ability with three sacks against a very good offensive line. That’s going to make life easier for the rest of the defensive front, as Michael Ayers, Osa Igbinosun, Darnell Smith, and Anthony Winbush along with others attempt to replace the likes of Bruce Heggie, Blake Dueitt, and Nick Miles. The line had issues for sure, as did the whole defense, but I think it’s safe to say this unit is more advanced than many thought it would be and Posley’s performance and ability to disrupt the backfield of an opposing team might mask some of the other problems.
  • Linebackers/Secondary: I lump these two together simply because they are both suffering from injuries that make evaluating their performance difficult if not completely impossible. The secondary was missing two of their top three safeties in Dae’Shaun Hurley and Dedrick Cromartie and the linebackers were down Damon Singleton and Aaron Taylor. These two units didn’t look especially strong Saturday, and that does raise some legitimate concerns about depth and inexperience. The corners weren’t shutdown in any sense of the word, but I have a feeling that may be because of the immense amount of talent and depth at the receiver position on the offensive side of the ball. The missed tackles and poor form I’ll chalk up to the limited contact of spring ball and not a greater problem but time will tell.
  • Coaching: There were significant worries about coaching related things like playcalling, aggression, and such that were clearly a bleed over from last season. The Spring Game is a controlled environment and a limited sample size, but the offense I saw on Saturday and the playcalling was night and day from last fall. Whether that’s a result of having a clear-cut starter and knowing exactly how to prepare and gameplan for his skills and abilities, or just a comfort in the position from Joey Lynch, it was a 180-degree difference from 2014. I’d say that’s a great thing given the lack of sure results from the defensive unit. If the offensive gameplan isn’t higher octane than we saw in 2014 it is going to be a very long season. Saturday, the Ball State offense was fun to watch, hard to stop, and running all cylinders.
  • Depth: The receiver position group speaks to the overall feel of this program finally having the depth to overcome fluke injuries or fatigue issues. It’s a given at larger programs but harder to find in MAC-level schools, but the Cards’ possession of such a trait is a remarkable thing and a direct result of the Lembo regime and his redshirting philosophy. I’d say now is when consistent results are possible and the “Win for a year/drop off for a couple” way of doing things in the MAC may be in our rear view mirror. It is possible if not likely that you are looking at the beginning of a stretch of high performance. I hope you’re ready.

As we talked about in our Pregame Show on Periscope, one of the things I had almost written off as a certainty for the 2015 season was a throwback to a more traditional MAC approach. In other words, I was under the assumption that most of our conference games were going to be a “Whomever has the ball last is going to win a 50-45 affair”. I’m less in that camp now than I was then given the strides of the defensive front, but at the same point, as the offense goes this year so will go the season. A pedestrian simplified offensive attack that isn’t significantly more productive and more aggressive than last season and it could be a stretch to get to five wins. If the offense can hit its stride early and maintain, along with a 2008-esque “bend but don’t break and step up in big moments” approach from the defense then a post season opportunity is definitely within reach. That statement alone and my ability to make it says a ton about the overall performance from the spring game.

There’s still a ton of coverage from the Spring Game upcoming from the Pylon over the next several days. We’ll have more today on observations from Saturday, several behind the scenes video packages about some cool goings on at Scheumann Stadium, an awesome new premium seating opportunity, and even some aerial drone footage from The Scheu and some other campus landmarks. Stay tuned and Go Cards!

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