Not going to lie, did not expect to be writing this post this morning. I had a nice Sunday post ready to rock. It was a great concept for a column and a post about how all the Ball State fans that overreacted after the North Texas game were out of their minds. It was to be a column that was basically a “See… I told you so” post that was made possible by a victory. A victory over an FCS school, sure, but a victory all the same. It was the sort of post that was needed, as was the win, considering the amount of rumblings, grumblings, and chaos that reigned over the last week. Unfortunately, with a 23-16 loss to New Hampshire Saturday night, that column gets put on hold. With the way this team looks, the way this fan base is shattering, and the attitude and atmosphere around the program, perhaps this “hold” may last a while.
From North Texas last week to New Hampshire yesterday, improvement was expected. Improvement never came. The offense sputtered, turned the ball over, and Kelly Page was pressured all game long. The offensive line didn’t open holes for Quale Lewis and they couldn’t protect Page. Anytime an offense only rings up 127 total yards to an FCS school, regardless of how good the FCS school is, that’s problematic. Throw in three turnovers and a safety, and that is pretty much the definition of inept. Complimenting the offensive ineptitude, the defense looked lost, blew coverage, and made mistakes which led directly to points. There were flashes of brilliance, like Robert Eddins, but overall, not a strong defensive showing. Certainly nowhere near the improvement that was wanted or expected after the North Texas debacle.
Perspective-wise, UNH is a very high quality FCS school. According to the FCS rankings, they’re #7, but sure to move up now after their fifth consecutive win over an FBS school. They have talented players, were well coached, etc. Regardless of all those “good” things about New Hampshire, this is a game that BSU needs to win. Period. And the fact that that didn’t happen raises significant questions, significant issues, and is going to make life ridiculously difficult for this team, this program, and this fanbase.
After the season-opening loss to North Texas some questioned whether or not Stan Parrish was capable of winning. There was a much larger contingent of people who defended Coach Parrish, and pointed instead to the losses on offense, the change in scheme defensively, coaching turnover, and youth across the board as reasons why a loss wasn’t so surprising. After last night’s loss, more people are jumping to the side of doubt and disbelief about the ability of this team to succeed, the ability of Stan Parrish to succeed, and the ability of this team to even win a game. What started as a low rumble is growing in volume and certainly drawing a line in the sand for this fanbase to pick which side they’re on.
I consider myself one of the most grounded and centered Ball State fans around. Perhaps that was because I was around for the 21 losses in a row as well as the 12 straight victories last season. But despite being grounded in rational thought and perspective that colored my feelings about this season and the massive amount of rebuilding needed, I am beginning to worry. Rebuilding is one thing. Losses while learning and gelling are one thing. Improvement that just isn’t enough is one thing. Lack of execution, no semblance of improvement, and outright failure is quite another.
I did not expect this team to go 12-0 this year. Losses were possible. Including the two we’ve suffered already. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that this team does not seem prepared, does not seem to be improving at all, and is raising significant doubts, in my mind at least, about avoiding the rest of the season just tanking. It’s not that we’re 0-2. It is how the team looked in the 2.
Next week the Cardinals have their first road game at Army, and I’m hoping that getting this team and this staff away from home, away from the fellow students, and away from the pressure will do well to help them refocus and re-energize. If not, if more negatives occur, and if another loss happens, the volume of the dissent will reach record levels. And that column I had planned will once again be put on hold. Perhaps forever.
(1-5 Stans, 1 being happy as a Matlock marathon
5 being like Marsh ran out of Metamucil)
Losing to FCS New Hampshire certainly doesn’t decrease week 1′s record level Stan-O-Meter. Losing next week to Army may make us reevaluate the ceiling for this puppy for the rest of the season since 5 may not be high enough.