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Ball State Football Announces Awards at Postseason Banquet

BSULogoWhen I was younger and actually played sports rather than blogging about them in an attempt to escape the soul crushing reality of working for a living, the postseason banquet was always one of the best things about the season. There were trophies, a good meal, the coaches did something other than scream their ass off about the mistakes you made, and really the toil and effort from the season seemed to be worth it regardless of the outcome of the season record. (That’s a good lesson for the Colts today too, and I hope Chuck Pagano has orange slices and ribbons for all his guys)

On Sunday, the Ball State football team officially put a wrap on their 2014 campaign with their own version of a fancy dinner at Ryan’s Steak House by hosting the annual Honors Banquet at the Horizon Convention Center in beautiful downtown Muncie. Aside from gathering this group of young men and Cardinals together for what is more likely than not the last time (which is a bit sad in and of itself) there was a plethora of hardware handed out as well:

  • John Magnabosco Award (Team MVP): Jahwan Edwards
  • John Hodge Award (Most Valuable Freshman): Corey Lacanaria & Dedrick Cromartie
  • Bill Reynolds Special Teams Award: Scott Secor
  • Gene Booker Academic Award: Taylor Hoke
  • Mark Hays Inspiration Award: Brian Jones
  • Paul Schudel Strength & Conditioning Award: Nick Miles
  • Bill Meitzler Scout Team Player of the Year: David Morrison & Joshua Posley
  • Dave McClain Leadership Award: Jacob Richard
  • Ray Louthen Award (Most Improved): Dylan Curry

I’d say there are approximately zero surprises in the above. Quake as the MVP, Secor as the Special Teams MVP, and Lacanaria and Cromartie as newcomers of the year were how I would have voted it as well. I can’t speak for the weightlifting and conditioning prowess of Nick Miles but I won’t question his award largely because he looks like he could deadlift a Smartcar and I’d like to see my kids grow up. The rest I’ll just take the staff’s word on.

There was also a new award given out, the 12th Man Award, presented to Ball State’s deputy AD Pat Quinn. Quinn’s career at BSU is long and distinguished, ranging from a remarkably successful tenure as the baseball coach and now a fruitful 20 years in compliance and administration. Quinn spoke to one of my grad school classes about athletic administration and he was informative and engaging along with incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about his field. When good professionals and better people get deserved recognition that’s a good thing. Congrats to Pat and all the award winners!

Ball State 2015 Schedule Taking Shape

MACThough it’s January, there’s still football in the air as the Mid American Conference announced which of their MAC brethren the Cardinals will take on in 2015. Ball State will host Central Michigan, Toledo, Massachusetts and Bowling Green, while playing at Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Ohio.  Dates for the 2015 league schedule will be announced at a later time. Get yourself ready for payback, UMass.

The Cardinals’ non-conference slate is set to start Sept. 5 at home vs. VMI.  Ball State still needs to add one non-conference tilt, but will play at Texas A&M Sept. 12 and at Northwestern Sept. 26. As for the final non-conference game, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. My hope is a home game against an FBS school, but that’s going to be hard to do on such short notice. Selfishly, there’s a gap in the home schedule for the University of Kentucky next fall thanks to UAB shuttering its doors, but I doubt either party would be exceptionally jazzed about playing that game.

The rumor of the month so far is that Ball State was going to fill out their schedule by playing at Florida State. Number one, FSU doesn’t need another game as their schedule as full. Number two, I’d be not ok with playing three FBS games all on the road. Number three, we are already going to be witness to a curbstomping when A&M opens their new stadium, so let’s try not be a MACrificial lamb in Tallahassee, mmmkay?

Football Adds Three as Second Semester Begins

BSULogoSince we’ve taken some time off from the blogging happy fun time for the holidays, allow us to give you the cursory “We hope you had a great holiday…” kind of sentiment. With that, though, time for some Cardinal news as 2015 dawns. To the BSU release!

Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo has announced the arrival of three student-athletes who have signed grant-in-aid papers to play football for the Cardinals.

James Gilbert and Morgan Hagee graduated from their respective high schools in December and have enrolled at Ball State for the beginning of the 2014 spring semester. Jacob White, who signed a national letter of intent with the Cardinals last February, sat out the 2014 fall semester and has enrolled in classes this spring.

“We are pleased to welcome Jacob, James and Morgan to Ball State as we begin the spring semester,” Lembo said. “These three young men are truly excited to join our football program and the Ball State community. By enrolling midyear, they will have an opportunity to begin bonding and competing with our returning players this winter and spring. We look forward to working with them in the weeks and months ahead to help them successfully adjust to life as an NCAA Division I student-athlete.”

Gilbert graduated from Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis after playing football for Coach Anthony Henderson. A 5-10, 190-pound running back, Gilbert set the school’s career record for rushing yards with 4,817. He was the Indianapolis Public Schools Player of the Year in 2014 and earned all-state honors this past season. A three-time All-City player, Gilbert was named Tech’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore and junior.

Hagee graduated from Plainfield High School in Indiana after playing for Coach Brian Woodard. He earned three letters for the Quakers and was named to the All-Mid-State Conference First Team and Academic All-Conference squad as a senior. Hagee, a 5-11, 165-pound placekicker and punter, made 11-of-14 field goals with a long of 49 as a senior. He connected on 25-of-26 extra point kicks and averaged 35.8 yards per punt in his final season. In his career, Hagee made 16-of-21 field goals and 58-60 extra points while averaging 36.0 yards per punt. He set the Plainfield school records for field goals in a game (3), field goals in a season (11) and field goals in a career (16). Hagee was named to the Indiana Football Coaches Association Top-50 All-State Team plus was selected All-Hendricks County as a senior. With a 3.76 grade-point average in high school, Hagee plans on majoring in interpersonal communications at Ball State.

White is a 2014 graduate of Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois where he earned three letters in football for Coach Rich Tarka. An All-West Suburban Silver Conference selection as a junior and senior, White was Hinsdale Central’s Most Valuable Player in his final season. The 6-0, 215-pound, linebacker was a team captain as a senior and tallied 69 tackles while also rushing for 429 yards with four touchdowns. He managed 137 tackles with five sacks and four quarterback hurries in his career. White tallied a 4.23 GPA on the school’s 5.0 scale (equivalent to a 3.23 GPA on a 4.0 scale) and plans to major in entrepreneurship at Ball State.”

So welcome to those new Cardinals and we’re only like 8 months away from the 2015 season. Let’s go!

Quake Edwards Heading to NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Quake EdwardsNeed some more Jahwan Edwards in your life? You’ll have the chance on January 17 because a Quake warning has been issued for Carson, California and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Jahwan Edwards, a senior running back on the 2014 Ball State football team, has been selected to compete in the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl Jan. 17 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz will serve as head coaches for the American and National teams, and the game will air live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. Practices from the all-star game will be broadcast live the Wednesday and Thursday of game week on ESPNU.

Edwards finished his Ball State career as the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,558), rushing touchdowns (51), total touchdowns (51) and rushing attempts (884). He ranks fifth in Mid-American Conference history in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, while ranking sixth in rushing attempts. The 5-10, 219-pound senior rushed for 100 or more yards six times in his final season and 18 times in his career.

In 2014, Edward tallied 262 rushes for 1,252 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging 104.3 rushing yards a game in his 12 starts. He became only the second player in Cardinals’ history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons after rushing for 1,410 in 2012, 1,110 in 2013 and 1,252 in 2014.

The Matthews, N.C., native is one of the draft-eligible seniors competing in the all-star game after helping Ball State to 30 wins and two bowl appearances in his four seasons.

It should be noted that that is the same complex that does some kind of Crossfit games or something. Quake also probably plans to win that too. You’ve been warned, Crossfitters.

AFCA Honors Ball State Football for Graduation Rate

BSULogoLet it not be said that Ball State football doesn’t put the “student” in student-athlete. Sure, other institutions may be competing for national championships and Bahamas Bowl berths, but some of those programs have athletes that I would assume probably wear Velcro shoes and can’t spell their team name correctly without looking at their sweatshirt. Not the case in Muncie, sports fans, as today the American Football Coaches Association honored your Ball State Cardinals for their graduation rate being over 90% for the football program.

Think that’s not impressive? You’re wrong. The Cardinals are one of only 13 teams in the country to achieve that kind of classroom success. To the Ball State release!

Ball State’s football program was recognized by the American Football Coaches Association as one of only 13 schools in the country to graduate at least 90 percent of its student-athletes in the latest NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report.

Of the 13 football playing Mid-American Conference schools, Ball State was one of only two to have a GSR score of at least 90 and is the only state school in Indiana to graduate over 90 percent of its 2007 class in the six years allowed for GSR purposes.

Among the football student-athletes including in this time frame for Ball State were Capital One Academic All-Americans Briggs Orsbon and Zane Fakes. Twenty-one of the Cardinals during this six year time frame were named to the MAC All-Academic team, while six were honored on the Capital One Academic All-District squad.

Congrats to the Cards and I hope someone put some of those good grade cards on the football office’s refrigerator.

Cardinals End Season On High Note, Upset Bowling Green

BSULogoI think with Friday’s 41-24 upset victory over MAC East Champion Bowling Green that included:

  • Bowling Green needing two plays (a 75-yard run a 96-yard kick return) to jump out to a 14-7 lead (after an Ozzie Mann 62-yard TD pass of his own)
  • Bowling Green taking a 21-7 lead with 9 minutes to go in the 1st quarter
  • Ozzie Mann starting his first game since October 4’s loss at Army in place of injured Jack Milas

we can officially call 2014 the absolute weirdest damn season that I can remember covering this team. Fluke plays, freak injuries, upsets of favorites, being upset as the favorite, this season officially had everything possible. And let’s not forget the record-breaking year and career that Quake Edwards turned in.

For Friday’s game, a game that admittedly both Jason and I thought would end the Cards’ season on a bit of a sour note, it is a ray of hope for fans to take away from this season and the coaching staff to go out and recruit on for the next class. After losing a slew of NFL-caliber talent and a deep senior class, the Cardinals still managed to pull a .500 record in the MAC, which (being honest, here) seemed somewhere just short of impossible after the loss to Western Michigan dropped the Cards to 1-5.

But a funny thing happened on the Cards’ way to irrelevancy this season, as QB1 was bestowed to Jack Milas and the Cards at pulled Ws in four of their last six. There’s plenty of opportunities for the pessimistic fans among us to cherry-pick the games that were basic coin flips that could have easily gone the Cards’ way (Iowa, WMU, and UMass at bare minimum) but that would be overlooking the Cards victories that could have easily gone the other way as well. Plus, it takes away from the stellar finish to this season for this senior class.

It’s funny how as a season progresses expectations and definitions change. If you had told me at the beginning of the season this year would be a 5-7 experience, I’d have been a tad bit unhappy and unsatisfied. Now, after the early losing streak and the (at times) complete unsatisfying experience known as Ball State football, I’m thrilled with 5-7 and just about ready to drive to Muncie to celebrate and tongue kiss whoever I see. Alas, it’s Thanksgiving break, so that would be a fruitless endeavor.

Friday’s BG win was a return to the Cardinal brand of football we have come to sort of expect and get awfully used to. It was a balanced attack through the air and the ground, and kudos to Joey Lynch for putting together a gameplan and playcalling that allowed the Cards to thrive. The Cards had no turnovers, no significant mistakes or penalties, dominated the time of possession, and most importantly in the second half: got the hell out of Quake’s way.

Edwards finishes his Cardinal career in true Quake-ian fashion, gashing the Falcons for 165 yards and 2 TDs. It is a fitting end to the career of the school’s career rushing leader, career rushing TDs leader, and career attempts leader. They don’t make ‘em like Quake much anymore, so count your blessings you were able to see him play.

The focus around these parts will shift a bit over the next few weeks to season recaps, lookaheads to the NFL futures of our graduating Cardinals, and trying to put an appropriate bow on this season. We’ll be there right there with you for all of it. More on BG tomorrow, but for now, it’s just enjoying this win, some leftover turkey and such, and just generally being in a much more pleasant mood than I expected to be at this particular juncture. So thank you Cards, for this game, this season, and everything else. Final word tomorrow, Go Cards!

Better Know: Bowling Green

Better Know Logo 200On Friday, Ball State closes out their 2014 season on the road against MAC East champion and sure-to-be-bowling Bowling Green. For Bowling Green, they are looking to continue their successful season and have at least one more contest after BSU: The Marathon MAC Championship in Detroit. For Ball State, this Friday’s contest is an opportunity to close 2014 out on a high note, in a season where high notes have been few and far between for the Cardinals. A victory puts the Cardinals at 5-7, but more importantly, also 4-4 in the MAC. With the injuries, staff turnover, and random fluke bad luck that has plagued the Cards this season, a .500 in-conference finish would be nothing short of staggering.

Lengthening those upset odds (Vegas has BG as 9-point favorites) is the fact that current starting Cardinals QB Jack Milas was removed from the previous EMU game with a wrist injury and is listed as “out” on this week’s depth chart, joining a whole host of other Cardinals. Who won’t be there isn’t as important as who will be, namely the newly re-annointed QB1, Ozzie Mann. So it’s Ozzie Football time again for Friends of the Feather.

Kickoff time on Friday is 1pm at Doyt Perry Stadium, and you can catch the game on ESPN3. Of course, before you do that, you should learn about BG, and that’s where we come in. Time to Better Know: Bowling Green!

Team: Bowling Green Falcons
Record: 7-4 (5-2 MAC)
Ranking: Unranked
Head Coach: Dino Babers
Series: BG leads 20-8-1
Last Meeting: 2009, a 31-17 BG win

Bowling Green Head Coach Dino Babers
… is in his first season as BG’s head coach, coming to the Falcons after a successful stint as head coach at FCS Eastern Illinois, where he was 19-7.
… his first year at Eastern Illinois was a worst-to-first turnaround and year two was a 12-2 record and a #2 national ranking.
… had the best offense in FCS both of his seasons at the helm of Eastern Illinois.

When it comes to BG versus the Cardinals
… BG is in the midst of six straight victories over the Cardinals.
… the last Cardinals victory over BG came in 1996, a 16-11 win at Bowling Green.
… in games played in Bowling Green, the Falcons have an 11-5 advantage.

The Bowling Green Falcons
… will honor 17 student-athletes on Friday as part of their senior day festivities. This particular group of graduates have led the Falcons to back-to-back MAC Championship Game appearances.
… will compete in Detroit on December 5 against a yet-to-be-determined MAC West opponent for the conference crown.
… are 3-0 this season in the week following a loss. Last week, the Falcons were defeated 27-20 last week at Toledo.

Better Know: Eastern Michigan

Better Know Logo 200I remember in years past that an Eastern Michigan game, more often than not, was one of the penciled in Ws on the schedule when the MAC released the conference slate for the coming football season. I know the platitudes and such about “Any given Saturday” and the whole respect your conference opponent thing, but I think it’s safe to say from an objective point of view that as the MAC has progressed from midweek novelty to significant BCS busting power that has the P5 conferences on perpetual upset alert that one boat was left behind by the rising tide: the EMU Eagles.

The good news for EMU is that it appears their boat is finally on the upswing, as new coach Chris Creighton is pulling out the stops to make EMU competitive, marketable, and noteworthy for something other than being the team you try to schedule for homecoming. If he can’t do it, I question whether anyone can, and frankly, the systemic and institutional roadblocks at EMU make even the hurdles at Ball State seem manageable.

On Saturday, it’s Senior Day at the Scheu and there’s a chance for BSU to gain a small bit of momentum before closing the season on Black Friday at Bowling Green. It will be an emotional afternoon as most home finales are, but for the 2014 campaign, I say good riddance and bring on 2015. Before we close the book, though, there’s still 120 minutes of football to play this season and it’s time to Better Know the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

Team: Eastern Michigan Eagles
Record: 2-8 (1-5)
Ranking: Unranked
Head Coach: Chris Creighton
Series: Ball State leads 32-21-2
Last Meeting: Ball State defeated EMU 51-20 in Ypsilanti in 2013

Eastern Michigan Head Coach Chris Creighton…
… is in his first season as the Eagles’ head coach, after a successful stint at Drake University where he departed with the highest win percentage in program history.
… is not a stranger to the Hoosier State, having spent seven seasons as the head coach at Wabash College. He also served four years as the offensive coordinator at Manchester College.
… has a career record of 141-53, and if you take away the 2-8 this season for EMU it’s even more impressive.

When it comes to EMU versus the Cardinals…
… this contest will be the 56th meeting between the teams.
… Ball State holds a three game win streak over the Eagles, but their last win against Ball State did come in Scheumann Stadium, an overtime win in 2010.
… that 21-point EMU comeback in the 2010 win was the largest comeback in EMU school history.

The Eastern Michigan Eagles…
… have landed senior tight end Tyreese Russell on the midseason Mackey Award Watchlist for the nation’s top tight end. He leads the Eagles in receiving with 29 catches for 393 yards.
… have a gamechanger on defense, with tackle Pat O’Connor leading the MAC in sacks and ranking 2nd in the conference in tackles for loss.
… put the special in special teams, blocking six kicks so far this season, 5 of them kicks, one of them punts.

Saturday. 2pm. Senior Day. Is there any more reason needed than that?!

Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan: By the Numbers

By the Numbers200On Saturday, the Cardinals will play their final home game in the 2014 campaign, and though most are ready to close the book on this football season, there is still significant things for which to play, most notably, a win for the seniors. Though an EMU blasting (and ultimately even an upset of BG next week) won’t completely eradicate the negativity of the first part of this season, it will do wonders to help bolster the argument that this season’s results are an aberration and not the expected norm without NFL talent on the roster.

The rationale for this season’s results are easy to pinpoint. Lost coordinators, lost personnel, a healthy dose of unhealthy injuries, and a steeper than expected learning curve for Coaches Lynch and Kelly have put the Cards at 3-7 and scrambling after a road loss to UMass that ended the Cards’ chances at .500 and a longshot bowl berth.

This Saturday’s contest, slated for a 2pm kickoff at Scheumann Stadium is your final chance to see Jahwan Edwards and a whole host of other seniors suit up for the Cardinals for the final time at home. Vegas puts the Cardinals at 17-point favorites, but the numbers we’re concerned about is the statistics. EMU and BSU by the numbers…

Eastern Michigan @ BSU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU EMU
Scoring Offense 94th (24.6)
127th (13.6)
Rushing Offense 93rd (141.9) 87th (146.4)
Passing Offense 86th (208.7) 126th(129.3)
Total Offense 108th (350.6) 126th (275.7)
Scoring Defense 68th (27.2) 121st (39.4)
Rushing Defense 93rd (188.5) 117th (229.2)
Passing Defense 72nd (230.4) 111th (274.0)
Total Defense 82nd (418.9) 122nd (503.2)
Sacks 116th (12.0) 120th (10.0)
Sacks Allowed 19th (12.0) 111th (30.0)
Turnover Margin 26th (+6) 123rd (-13)
3rd Down Conv. % 96th (36.3%) 111th (34.0%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 93rd (42.1%) 121st (48.5%)
Red Zone Conv. % 39th (86.5%) 128th (50.0%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 12th (71.7%) 17th (73.1%)
Punting 57th (41.6) 55th (41.7)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 22nd (41.0) 69th (54.0)

I’ve been doing this a long time, and frankly, I can’t remember a more statistically overmatched team than EMU. The numbers above have little to do with BSU and everything to do with EMU. They’re bad. Real bad. Anything less than a Cardinal dominating win and I’m going to be a bit disappointed. It’s time to blow the stench of this season’s frustrations and missed opportunities out the door. 2pm. Scheumann Stadium. See you there.

It’s UMass Day. Yay?

BSULogoSo it’s gameday for Ball State Nation. And it’s been severely lacking in content for the Minutemen for a whole host of reasons, most notably for some real-world issues that your site leadership is dealing with. However, the world doesn’t stop and start at our convenience so at least some cursory information on the Minutemen seems warranted, no?

UMass is 2-7 overall and 2-3 in the MAC. They started out this year with six losses, won two, and then lost last week at Toledo. The bad news for BSU fans is that their losses (outside of Penn State and Boston College) were all exceptionally close. We’re talking 19 points total, and that’s against the likes of Toledo, Bowling Green, and Vanderbilt (along with Colorado and Miami (OH)). So it’s highly likely that this could be the best 2-7 team there is in college football.

The game itself comes down to UMass’ passing attack against BSU’s defense. The Minutemen in true MACtion fashion are averaging 331 yards a game, good for 6th in the country. That isn’t a real positivity-inducing bullet point considering the failures of BSU’s defense this season. There’s also some notable parts missing for the BSU defense, namely Eric Patterson, who broke his arm last week against NIU. However, Ben Ingle, injured the week before is listed as “questionable” so YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE!

The internalized lead up to this game for me is eerily reminiscent of the games that were the norm before CPL and crew arrived in Muncie, where we were simply praying that the Cardinals could limit mistakes and do just enough to win. In some respects, that’s kind of what I’m hoping for. With three games remaining, (UMass, EMU, and @ BG) a victory would do wonders to propel the Cards to a somewhat respectable final record and perhaps even some positive momentum heading into the offseason devoid of a Bowl for the first time in two years. It’s still possible the Cardinals could finish .500, though it would require a 3-0 record over their final three, but most fans would likely be thrilled with that considering how the Cards started 2014.

So how do we get that W? I would think it comes down to:

  • Acceptance by the offensive coaching staff that the strength of the offense starts with Jahwan and ends with Edwards. Quake is putting up monster numbers when (in the mantra of Ryback) they FEED HIM MORE. I would even say that with a good batch of Quake runs and an offense that moves the ball well against UMass’ overmatched defense, it may go a long way to fans jumping back on the Lynch-train after a season with some considerable ups and downs.
  • The defense playing a bend but don’t break Hokian effort that the 08 Cards made famous en route to 12-0. Give up three instead of seven. Allow a play or two, but never for scores. Nut up when the time comes. Simple, really.
  • Provide some sort of spark. Whether that’s a big return on the special teams, a turnover, something. There has to be something (preferably early in the game) that gets the Cards on the positive side of the ledger.

The worst thing about tonight’s game? It’s in Massachusetts, where I assume there will be roughly 17 BSU fans come out and teams from Indiana usually don’t fare well (See: Colts, Pacers, etc.). So there’s that. 8pm kickoff on ESPNU. Be there or be square.

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