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Ball State Gets New Helmets

For years I’ve said numerous things about my alma mater. I’ve called it “The Harvard of the Midwest”, the “Harvard of Indiana”, “The Harvard of East Central Indiana”, and “The Harvard of Delaware County”. Maybe I was looking at schools too far east, as Ball State and more importantly for this site, the football program, has laid claim to be “The Oregon of the MAC” with some new alternate helmet designs. To the YouTubes…

Do you know why this is awesome? First of all, the helmets look sharp and they aren’t gaudy. Remember when IU football unveiled their new helmets? Yeah, me too. The amount of celebration and britches-messin’ that happened over shoddy designs and Indiana flag helmets made me want to grab the nearest sharp object and jam it into one of numerous orifices. More important than that, though, is that this catches the Cards up with other programs and speaks to the overarching theme that there are numerous pieces of evidence that the program has some money heading its way from the institution.

The .edu crowd (to borrow from Colin Cowherd) likes to make statements about the economics of football and how that money is wasted on boorish pursuits like football and sports in general, so investing in these instead of Bunson burners or test tubes probably pissed off some tweed sports coat wearing dude so that’s a nice little win-win.

The more things I can point to that shows that this university is equally as concerned about things that actually increase the national prominence of the institution no matter how bad the .edu crowd wishes that wasn’t the case makes me a happy guy. Kudos to the BSU equipment guys for making this a reality.

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?

 

[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 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!

How to Connect with the Pylon for Your Ball State Spring Game Needs

OTP Logo 200In case you were unaware, this Saturday is the Ball State University 2015 Spring Game for the fighting football Cardinals. That’s a decidedly good thing, given that we’ve lived a virtual football-free existence since the Super Bowl and a Cardinal-free existence since before that. That is too much time between touchdowns, big tackles, and Pete Lembo platitudes that could range anywhere from ancient Greek philosophy, to Churchill, to some classic rock line. The weather looks stellar (mid-70s and sunny) and there’s a bevy of things to check out at The Scheu.

But let’s say you can’t make it up to Muncie for some reason. Maybe you have family in town (there are 51 other weekends they could have come). Maybe you’re painting the living room a beautiful cerulean blue (nice choice!). Perhaps you are running some form of mini-marathon (no thank you). The point is sometimes life gets in the way of our absorption of Ball State football. However, should you find yourself in the weeds this weekend but still needing some access or some info about the goings on in Funcie, then brothers and sisters of Cardinal Nation, you have found yourself a home. Jason and myself will be making the trip to Muncie so you don’t have to, and it wouldn’t be an OTP roadshow without some slick things to keep you informed. Drone footage? Live video? Behind the scenes tomfoolery? Yes, yes, and yes.

Here’s just a few of the ways you can connect with us this weekend and beyond:

Periscope OTP

Periscope: The newest addition to the OTP social media arsenal, Periscope is your live video app where Jason and I will be broadcasting random things on our Spring Game journey. Live podcast on the way to Muncie? Likely. Thoughts on Spring Game goings on? Very likely. Footage from the field? Also likely. And the best thing is the ability for viewers to interact with us as we broadcast. Have a question? Share it in the app. Love Jason’s beard? Share it in the app. The virtual world is your virtual oyster. Download the app to your smartphone or tablet and then find us at “OverThePylon”.

Snapchat OTP logo

Snapchat: Everyone (or just about everyone) knows Snapchat and its benefits. Photos and videos are quick hit pieces that don’t last forever. Instead of sending inappropriate selfies (follow J’s personal account for that) we’ll be putting up stories of people we come across on Spring Game Saturday, short messages from people we think you’d like to hear from, and other fun goodies that will make your Spring Game experience that much better. Follow along, enjoy the ride, and don’t screencap. Poor etiquette, bro. Username to find is “OverThePylon”.

The Twitter Machines: If you’re not a member of the OTP Twitter army you are definitely missing out. You can follow along with all things Cardinal related and some things that aren’t, all while interacting with your fearless OTP editorial staff. Toss a follow to @OverThePylon.

Instagram: More of a photo person than a live video awesomeness person? Then you should be following the Pylon on Insta. Admittedly our Insta game has been lacking to this point, but it’s time to get in on the ground floor for the rebirth. Toss a follow to OverThePylon.

Facebook: I remember back when Facebook was only for college people or alums and you could Poke people in peace without having to worry about someone’s Farmville crops or Candy Crush levels. Those were the good old days and we didn’t even know it. So to clean up your Facebook existence from all the insignificant garbage, connect with the Pylon and consider it a good day.

YouTube: The home of stellar OTP videos from last spring game and the home of videos in the coming days of our Spring Game experience with a more professional polish and shine than the Snapchats or the Periscope. But still well worth your time and attention. You can check that out here.

Most of you are already following on some but not all, and a couple of the things above like Periscope and Snapchat are new things for the Pylon to try out in this kind of setting. It’s going to be a hoot and a half for the Spring Game so join us whether you’re there or not. We’ll make it well worth your while.

It’s Pete Lembo’s Birthday. Break Out the Celebratin’ Shoes

birthday-cakeThey say the older you get the less fun your birthdays become until that magical age where you can give zero f**ks and just drive on the sidewalk on the way to your senior discount at Marsh. Coach Pete Lembo isn’t in that stratosphere yet as today is only his 45th birthday. But it is his birthday all the same even if instead of Jagerbombs or Scotty’s pitchers it’s prepping for the Spring Game and recruiting, though the Cards are off today in terms of formal practice.

So who knows what fun and festivities are rocking and rolling at the Lembo household. Knowing CPL, he probably considered today worthy of some rest and relaxation. In Lembo-speak that means he slept in until 6:15am, only worked out for two hours, read just two books before lunch, limited his recruit notes to under 200, and then had a healthy lunch full of green leafy vegetables and lean protein. Yes, CPL takes it easy on the day of his birth. There’s also always the possibility of ice cream cake. Mmmmm, ice cream cake.

Ball State Students Get to Be a B Next Fall

Not that kind of Bea

Not that kind of Bea

Let it not be said that Ball State administrators and campus leadership aren’t trying whatever they can to increase student buy-in and support for athletics events. Proposed by SGA, starting in the fall, students can head on down to the field after the first home football game, hop on the field, and make a “B” of people. A “B” that will be professionally photographed and suitable for framing for all your students-as-letters needs as a Cardinal or Cardinal supporter.

Some will cynically say this is stupid, but even though I am a cynic of the highest order, that’s not the camp I’m in. I’ve worked at several campuses that have done something similar, and even if the students involved in it don’t love it (though they usually do), it’s still a great photo-op that makes the rounds through social media and something I’ve only seen pulled off well at bigger schools (the University of Maryland in my experience, though theirs was an “M” and then a “B1G” but that’s another story all together).

Here’s a similar kind of thing at another place close to my heart, University of Kentucky’s K Week….

KWeek

I’m all for anything that can give athletics more eyeballs and hopefully more support. Logistically, a B seems much harder to pull off, too, so let’s put those protractors and slide rules to good use, boys and girls.

Ball State Sports? There’s an App for That

Winkelvoss Twins

The Winkelvoss Twins may have thought up Facebook, but the BSU Athletics app is all Cardinal ingenuity

It’s obvious by you visiting this site that you have a love for Ball State athletics. What’s not clear is whether or not you have a tablet. If you do, then the BSU Athletics app is a must download sort of thing for you, especially since this week saw Ball State football added to the app.

What you’ll get from this product of BSU’s journalism program is an app that truly takes you behind the scenes of BSU athletics. Immerse yourself in gameday action, read recaps, bios, rosters, and all sorts of other cool stuff to make you the most educated and rabid Cardinals fan you can be. I mean, you’re already here at the Pylon which sets you apart from 99% of the “normal fans”.

Have an iOS device like an iPad? That means you’ll want to click here to install the app.

If you have an Android then you’ll want to click here. You’ll also want to sooner rather than later go to an Apple Store and buy an iPad and then hit the link above, but that can wait for now.

Football joins men’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, baseball, gymnastics, softball and soccer as teams digitally represented with the goal of all Cardinal sports teams making their app debut eventually. Oh, and don’t go swiping right on Joey Lynch’s photo. That’s another app entirely.

Spring Has Sprung for Ball State Football

Lembo Bouquet

 

The old adage says April showers bring May flowers, and if those are the flowers that pop up in your garden come Derby Day then I’d imagine the Muncie police would like to have a chat with you. But one thing that has popped up in recent days is Spring Practice for the football Cards. Here’s what you need to know…

  • There’s a new motto selected by the leadership council: “Earn it today” which they have said deals with the urgency of performance and daily excellence. I like it. It’s not a retread and it doesn’t suck nearly as bad as IU’s Kevin Wilson brainchild of Win Today Tomorrow Eventually Sometime Maybe
  • The Spring Prospectus is out along with the first depth chart for the spring. You can check that little jewel out at Ball State Spring Prospectus.
  • The Cards have added a home game with Eastern Kentucky and a home and home with Florida Atlantic. That might have gotten lost in your shuffle of @ Notre Dame in 2018 and a Bloomington-Indy-Bloomington in ’18, ’19, and ’20. EKU shouldn’t be a surprise given that the Cards just stole their AD in Mark Sandy. Thank you card payday helps ease the pain I would imagine.
  • In sad and sucky news, running back Horactio Banks’ career with the Cards is over thanks to a stress fracture in his leg. Last season saw an ACL tear and now this, and I can’t say the running back position is going to be one that is anything close to cemented. Teddy Williamson is probably your odds on favorite but there is room for someone to step up.
  • Also no longer with the team is Kyle Kamman, walk on junior QB. After last season’s bumpy ride to find a starter and with Jack Milas lightly penciled in as QB1 for spring ball with Ozzie Mann and redshirt freshman David Morrison fighting for a chance. This also doesn’t include Riley Neal who will be there in the summer, so it’s safe to say that the opportunities for QB snaps is waning by the day. Good luck to Kyle wherever his path takes him.

Of major note is the gains in the weight room the Cards has made. Let the Voice of the Cardinals Joel Godett explain what we mean…

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