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.