On Saturday afternoon, the eyes of the nation shifted to the MAC. That small little conference from the rust belt with perhaps the strangest geographic footprint this side of next year’s Big East, often relegated to paycheck driven cannon fodder for the BCS conferences, mattered. Could it be? Was it really possible that the MAC was trending on Twitter on a national level? Was it possible that the Big East (twice), the Big Ten, and the Big 12 all suffered defeat at the hands of MAC schools? Yes, indeedy, and the Ball State Cardinals pitched in by knocking off the South Florida Bulls, a Big East member, and only the second BCS automatic qualifying conference member to ever be beaten by Ball State.
How big was the win? That depends on what measuring stick you look at. From a season perspective, it’s big because it was this week’s opponent, keeps the Cardinals above .500, builds momentum for the heart of the MAC schedule, and guarantees no worse than a .500 out of conference record. Even the crowd made for a positive bullet point, as the attendance looked quite full on television, and was announced at 16,000+, sure to increase after this victory. Of course, the scope of this win is much greater than this season or rear ends in seats at the Scheu, and that’s where its magnitude begins to really set in.
At its most basic level, it alerts the doubters in the MAC and beyond that this is a team significantly improved in a significantly short amount of time. Are we to the level of 2008 dominance or results yet? Probably not. But I’d say we’re closer to the 2008 version of the Cardinals than the 2009 or 2010 versions. This victory cements that notion. This victory gives a senior class that has been through literally everything imaginable from a football perspective a capstone moment to their careers. This victory gives the Pete Lembo experiment in Muncie a passing grade written in permanent marker.
Was this the biggest win in program history as some have claimed? That’s hard to say. Off the top of my head and dealing only with the modern era, I’d say 07 Navy, 08 Indiana, and 10 Indiana are wins that are near the top of the list with this one in terms of out of conference. There are a host of in conference games, most from 2008 that also are vying for the top spot. Where you rank it is inconsequential. That we are even able to have the conversation speaks volumes about where this program has come in just a year and a half.
In some respects, the win will not be as noticed as it should because of the rest of the MAC and the victories they were able to pull out against teams like Iowa, Kansas, and Connecticut. But at the end of the day, this will be a game that folks will look back on for years to come as the defining moment of the 2012 season. Each season has those moments that people recall as the definitive game or moment for a given time. For me, 2007 will always be a blocked field goal against Navy. 2008 will always be fireworks over the Scheu against Western Michigan. 2012 just might be a corner fade route caught one-handed by Willie Snead. Well done, Cards.
The final word for USF…
1. Something timeless, uninterrupted, or endless.