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The Last Two Games Critical for Cards Future

Pete Lembo Ball StateFor the last few years this time of year has been joyous around the Pylon as we get ready for the critical season-closing games to determine which bowl the Cards will be heading to, which schools are possibly coming after Coach Lembo, and where some of our Cards are headed in the pending NFL Draft. What a difference a year makes. This season? None of the above. The Cards won’t be bowling over the Christmas holidays unless they take a team trip to Clancy’s, the only people coming after Coach Lembo are the BSU faithful, and as for the NFL, let’s worry about that in the spring. So this season, heretofore known as The Lost Season, is a bit of uncharted water for BSU fans under CPL’s leadership.

Even CPL’s “bad” years were good compared to Stan Parrish and some of Bill Lynch, but this season (barring winning out) will set a new low for CPL in Muncie. Are there reasonable explanations for why this season went off the rails? Of course. Coordinator turnover, youth in critical positions, and an upswing in competition in the MAC are just a few of the many reasons why the fighting football Cardinals have fallen on hard times a bit. Is there a rational write off that this is a fluke season that is a bump in an otherwise smooth road? There is, but the ability to swallow that pill is getting harder and harder as the losses mount and the way in which the losses are achieved sets in.

The lone bright spot in 2015 was Northwestern, a closer than expected loss against a reputable team. Every other loss was either what we expected or far worse, both in terms of score (NIU, WMU) or prestige (Georgia Freakin’ State) and the wins were uninspiring against subpar teams that were closer than they should have been. It hasn’t been a good year, I won’t sugar coat it, and for the first time in CPL’s tenure in Muncie, I am genuinely concerned about the current direction of the program.

The fanbase is at a critical juncture where people are beginning to lose faith. Can you blame them? They’ve been down this road so many times before. A program’s prodigal son has a special season and bolts for the west coast. His replacement, lauded as the conquering hero to promote continuity, falls flat in spectacular speed and fashion. Every time in recent memory that the fanbase, the small dedicated few of Cardinal nation, has gotten their hopes up, reality sets in fast enough to use an egg timer. Until Coach Lembo. Then it appeared that things were trending up on a sustainable arc. It was foundational. It was fundamentals and discipline. It was the “right way”. Then this season happened. And no one had an egg timer handy.

There are two games left this season. The Cards are at Ohio next Tuesday and at home against Bowling Green the Tuesday that follows. BG sits at 7-2, undefeated in the MAC, and are in possession of victories over Maryland and Purdue, both dumpster fires in their own right, but power conference dumpster fires all the same. Ohio (6-4, 3-3 MAC) is a likely bowl team, but they have lost three of their last four, so they are beatable. But those losses were to WMU, BG, and Buffalo, so don’t get too excited.

If you forced me to set percentages, I’d say there’s a 74% chance the Cards close at 0-2, a 25% chance the Cards split at 1-1, and a 1% longshot that they beat both Ohio and BG, both of those last percentages set because it’s likely BG has nothing to play for given their pending MAC title game berth. For the sake of the program, CPL, the coaching staff, etc. I certainly hope that 26% chance happens. If not, it’s going to be a tumultuous, though well-deserved, offseason.

Sally Northcroft Steps Down as Ball State Field Hockey Coach

Sally NorthcroftLet it not be said that Ball State reserves its bad news for Friday afternoon and a take out the trash news dump kind of situation, as it was announced on Monday that Sally Northcroft, Cardinal alum and current head coach of the field hockey program has resigned from that post.

“After giving careful personal and professional consideration to my future, I have made the decision to return to Australia,” Northcroft said. “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to coach at my alma mater. It has been an honor to be entrusted with this role and I am extremely grateful to have been able to coach, educate, mentor and motivate this exceptional group of young women.”

A two-time first team All-American for the Cardinals as a student-athlete from 1996-1999, Northcroft helped the program accumulate a 64-21 record over her playing career, including a 42-4 mark in Mid-American Conference play. Northcroft ended her playing career as the MAC’s all-time leader in both goals scored (126) and career points (270).

As a senior, Northcroft led the nation in goals scored (52), total points (107) and scoring average (5.09), with her 52 goals still ranking third on the NCAA Division I single-season goals chart. The Harare, Zimbabwe native was inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and the MAC Hall of Fame in 2014.

In 41 years as an intercollegiate sport, the Ball State field hockey program and its student-athletes have collected 16 MAC regular season championships, 10 MAC Tournament titles, 10 MAC Coach of the Year awards, seven MAC Player of the Year honors and five MAC Freshman of the Year accolades. The program has also produced more All-America selections than any other MAC program with 18, and has made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

“The field hockey team has worked so incredibly hard this year and I believe it is in a better place to now become a legitimate contender in the Mid-American Conference and beyond,” Northcroft added.

Northcroft was hired to the position in February of this year and steps down after just 9 months on the job. I’d say her 2-16 (0-6 MAC) record had more than a little to do with this shift. So there’s that. Safe travels and enjoy the shrimps and their barbies.

Sisqo Wants Nest News and Notes

SisqoAdmittedly, I am not an expert on the rap game and those who inhabit it. But I think we all were our own little Russel Simmons when Sisqo was big back in the late 90s. Granted, that was my wheelhouse of college debauchery and hijinks, but I defy anyone that went to school or lived in that era to not affiliate Sisqo with a little piece of creative genius known as “The Thong Song”. Some will mock this song and Sisqo’s general career as a joke. NOT SO! I mean, just look at the lyrical chops:

She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck
Thighs like what, what, what
Baby move your butt, butt, butt…
… All night long
Let me see that thong

If you say you aren’t continuing the song verbatim in your head, then you are a damn liar. Sisqo turns 37 today and what better way to celebrate than with some Nest News & Notes for your Monday. Unleash the dragon…

NewsNotesLogoNeed a bright spot to your Cardinal news given the assthrashing from last week on the football field? Johnny Watts has you covered. The sophomore shot a career 54-hole low to take third in the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic in Hawaii, beating nine of the top 100 in the field in the process. Watts won the MAC last spring, but something tells me he may want to clean off another shelf for some soon to awarded things.

NewsNotesLogoWomen’s volleyball dropped a straight set match to NIU on Saturday, but there was good news to be had since thanks to Kent beating EMU the Cardinals have now clinched a spot in the 8-team MAC conference tournament. You’ve got two chances to see the Cardinal volleyballers before that tourney this coming weekend as they have home matches Friday and Saturday with EMU and CMU respectively. Both matches start at 7.

NewsNotesLogoWomen’s soccer was on the short end of the penalty kick stick last week and missed out on a MAC tourney title, but that didn’t stop numerous Cardinals from being recognized for their individual accomplishments and landing on the All-MAC First Team. Chelsy Swackhamer, Leah Mattingly and Alyssa Heintschel all were named First Team selections, along with Lorina White and Abbie Boswell. White was also awarded MAC Defensive Player of the Year while Boswell brought home Freshman of the Year. Only three previous teams in league history had five first-team picks in a season (Miami 2002, Central Michigan 2009 and Central Michigan 2012).

NewsNotesLogoBasketball is right around the corner for both men and women at Ball State, with the regular season commencing on Friday. In case you are still in the market for tickets…

Season Tickets
Men’s: Reserved — $190; General Admission — $115; Courtside — $400
Women’s: Adult — $39; Adult w/ purchase of MBB season tickets — $30; Youth — $30

Single Game Tickets
Men’s: Reserved — $15; General Admission (Adult) — $10; General Admission (Youth, 2-18) — $6
Women’s: Adult — $7; Youth (2-18) — $3

Group Tickets (10+)
Men’s: Reserved — $10; General Admission — $6
Women’s: $3

Men’s Basketball 6-Game Mini Pack
Reserved — $78; General Admission — $48


Chirp chirp.

Cards Break Streak, Beat UMass 20-10

UMass-logoFive straight losses? Yeah, those sucked. UMass as a quality opponent? Not hardly. But you know, when you need a win, perhaps a tasty morsel of UMass is just what the doctor ordered, and the Cardinals took full advantage of that prescription Saturday as they sent the Minutemen back to the worst state of the union with a 20-10 loss. Thanks for the tea party and the cream that goes in the donuts. Now donut your asses back to Amherst and out of the MAC.

It was the final time the Cards will suit up against the Minutemen as conference brethren, since UMass is leaving the MAC after this season. Good riddance to bad late-hitting cheap-shotting rubbish and thank you kindly for the victory. Help yourself to some Pizza King before you get out of town.

For Ball State, let’s not understate how massive this victory was, not for the opponent or how they looked, just to silence some of the more passionate Cardinal fans who were beginning to voice some discontent over the streak about the direction of the program. It’s at least a small reprieve before a brutal close to the season against Western Michigan, Ohio, and Bowling Green, the first of which is on the road Thursday against WMU and PJ Fleck’s boat rowers. None of that matters tonight, though, because the Cards are off the losing streak. Time to do a little ceiling dancing…

More on this and an opening salvo for WMU Sunday. Between Pharaoh winning the Breeder’s Cup and now this, it’s a pretty good little Saturday indeed.

Monday Hangover: Northwestern

Wilbon was happy Saturday, I'm sure.

Wilbon was happy Saturday, I’m sure.

You know, this is going to sound weird, but Saturday could have been much much worse. Yes, I thought there were opportunities for the Cardinals to get a win, on the road, against a top 25 team and those kind of moments don’t come around often for BSU and certainly weren’t expected this year. No, I didn’t think that would be likely before the game started. We can harp on opportunities squandered, defensive lapses, and how this somehow got away from us, but I think that would be missing the broader narrative and doing a disservice to the team and their efforts.

In all honesty, I feel considerably better about this team than I did after VMI, Texas A&M, and in some respects Eastern Michigan. I feel like the offense is finally in the hands of the QB that it needs to be in for success to be achieved. I feel like Darian Green is going to be something special to watch in Muncie for the next bit of time. I feel like we’re already doing that with Jordan Williams. On the negative side, I feel like the defense is still mediocre and the playcalling at times leaves a bit to be desired, but all in all, those things are at least palatable if not outright fixable with time.

So, it wasn’t a win but it wasn’t a game I walk away from pissed off or upset about. It would have been nice to have won the game, but the outcome of this season isn’t impacted one way or another because of this loss. For now, the issue isn’t Northwestern and the Cards’ performance in Evanston. Oh, no. Every bit of focus, every bit of effort, every bit of attention has to shift to the MAC and this week’s opponent, Toledo. The rest of the season and the goals we all had when it started are still attainable, but it starts with a victory over Toledo. Make it so, CPL.

What say you? What were your takeaways from Northwestern?

Riley Neal on a Velociraptor? Riley Neal on a Velociraptor

Sure, Northwestern is a 20 point favorite this weekend. Sure, Ball State is going to start a true freshman at quarterback on the road against a Big Ten opponent. Sure, the opponent is ranked 17th in the country. Sure, Ball State had some difficulty with Virginia Military Institute. Sure, Ball State got curb stomped by Texas A&M. Sure, Northwestern beat Stanford and Duke and only allows around 6 points a game on average. Those are all facts. But if you haven’t learned it by now, facts are optional at the Pylon. Take those facts and [REDACTED] with them. That was before Riley Neal. I SAID THAT WAS BEFORE RILEY NEAL, FOOL.


You know what’s more American than Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor with an American flag blowing in the breeze while he blows shit up? Riley Neal. Let me fix that for you, Internet….

Riley Neal Ball State

You’re welcome, America.

Cards Open MAC Play, World Hangs in Balance

kevin2So here’s the deal. Saturday, Ball State opens MAC play against EMU. Channel your inner Kevin Hart and repeat after me…. MAC Opener. Road Game. Ypsilanti. Grey field. No fans. Suck ass team. One pillow. No pillowcase. It’s getting real up in here.

Suffice to say after a somewhat disappointing performance against VMI that ended up closer than any of us liked, would have expected, or could extrapolate anything from followed by an ass thrashing at the hands of A&M that ended up closer than it probably should have been and giving us nothing to extrapolate out from the performance. It’s not been a fun week around OTP Manor. Do we take positive away from the A&M game? Do we bring up the fact that there is literally no inclination of who is going to start at QB when the game opens for the Cardinals on Saturday? Do we just sit and rock ourselves back and forth and whisper to ourselves that things are going to be ok? WHO KNOWS?!? BLOGGING IS HARD! STOP YELLING!

Realistically, I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. If FutureAlan came to me and told me the Cards laid the word to EMU and I celebrated into the early evening, I wouldn’t be surprised. If FutureAlan came to me and told me that aforementioned wood got laid to the Cards, I would be equally as non-shocked. All I know, is tomorrow is the first game of the year that we will be able to take anything away from in order to plan ahead for the 2015 season. 3:00pm tomorrow, and we’re comin’ in hot.

A&M 56, Ball State 23

You know what’s awesome? Puppies. Puppies are great. Wet noses, joyous inquisition, exceptional loyalty all making them the best damn pet anyone could ever hope to have. Puppies are great, man. They are just the wonderful amazement that you’ve come to know and love. Aces, man. Aces.

The pooch of OTP Manor, Wilbur

The pooch of OTP Manor, Wilbur

Also, CPL tried his damnedest to poopoo all over the point spread which I’m sure increased the pucker factor for all of you degenerates betting on a BSU game. So props to him. More tomorrow.


OTPcast 7.2

OTP Cast Logo200Cards better have my upset!
Ag fans should know us well enough
Cards better have my upset!
Please don’t call us on our bluff
Pay us what you owe us
Ballin’ bigger than LeBron
Ags, gave us their money
Who y’all think y’all frontin’ on?
Like brrap, brrap, brrap

Scheu construction and it’s all on me, Ags you just bought it all
Kamikaze if you think that you gon’ knock us off the top
Sumlin gonna need some help, needs to give Lembo a call
Don’t act like you forgot, Milas calls the shots, shots, shots
Like brrap, brrap, brrap
Pay us what you owe us, don’t act like you forgot

It’s time for your favorite Ball State sports podcast just in time for the A&M contest Saturday. The guys revisit VMI, chat A&M, Cards in the NFL, and the average American. Turn it on, turn it up, get your chirp on!

Couple of different ways to hear this puppy. Viewing OTP in a feedreader? Then visit the site or download the mp3 from iTunes by clicking here. You can also check the OTPcast on your Android device via Stitcher Radio here. Leave us a rating if you like what you hear! Enjoy…

Revisit Hulk Smashing Leg Day Before It Made it on College Gameday

Last week, the Cards made their now annual visit to College Gameday. Last year it was because of an enterprising BSU student that had “We Want Bama” that was answered by an Alabama fan with “We Want Ball State”. This year? Leg day, obviously. There are worse ways to get on ESPN than the awesomeness that is Dave Feeley’s strength and conditioning program. Get your gainz, bro!

That is epic on so many levels.


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