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Countdown to Liberty

Will Eric Williams introduce himself to Liberty the same way he did SEMO?

Saturday at 7pm at Scheumann Stadium the Ball State Cardinals will attempt to push their record to 2-0, continue the momentum before their consecutive Big 10 opponents, and avoid an FCS loss which we all endured last season. BSU fans saw a tale of two teams last week against Southeast Missouri State, but when the dust cleared, the team we all thought possible (strong rushing, intense defense) prevailed. This week figures to be significantly more of a challenge than SEMO, as Liberty, while a fellow FCS member athletic program, presents some considerable challenges and a worthy adversary. While fans and the media look down on victories over FCS caliber schools like they are some sort of given, a victory over the Liberty Flames is something that Ball State shouldn’t disregard as “easy”, “expected”, or “a given”. With that in mind, we give you the Countdown to Liberty…

5 Things You Should Know

  1. Liberty Isn’t a Pushover
    The Flames are ranked 18th in the most recent FCS Coaches Poll. Evaluating the Flames only on their divisional classification is a dangerous game, and something that has the propensity to bite teams in the ass. Whether it’s FBS, FCS, or some other acronym, ranked is ranked, and Liberty is one of the best teams in their division according to a jury of their peers.
  2. Liberty Can Score
    Last week, the Flames took St. Francis to the woodshed 52-7. Granted, St. Francis isn’t an FCS power, but a beating like that demonstrates just what this team is capable of. Ringing up 52 points and 599 yards of total offense means that unless the Ball State defense steps it up, we could be looking at a shootout, and it’s clear that Liberty has plenty of ammo for that.
  3. Liberty Can Keep You From Scoring
    Liberty was one play (the opening kickoff) from pitching a shutout in their season opener. Limiting St. Francis to 219 total yards, only 10 first downs, and zero offensive touchdowns means Kelly Page and the offense have their work cut out for them. While it’s tempting to assume we are far better than St. Francis, they say the largest improvement in defense is from week one to week two. The problem is I’m not sure where the room for improvement may be for the Flames. That doesn’t bode well.
  4. LU Head Coach Danny Rocco is the Real Deal
    So often high risers in FCS or non automatic qualifying conferences jump ship the second they get the first hint of success or interest. For Rocco, that doesn’t seem to be the case. He’s building a winner in Liberty that’s far more impressive than their FCS peers in both success and also facilities. Rocco has helped oversee an expansion of the stadium to over 30k, set national records in recent years in both offense and defense, and won the Big South Coach of the Year three times. He runs Liberty like a BCS caliber school and it may not be long before the Flames themselves are indeed FBS.
  5. LU Competes Well Against the Big Boys
    While some FCS schools take payday asswhippings from their FBS brethren, Liberty has no need for the money or the loss that comes with it. Additionally, their FBS opponents of late have not been able to exert significant dominance. Losing by only 13 and 1 to West Virginia and Toledo respectively demonstrate the Flames’ ability to go on the road and make it a game.

4 Players You Should Know

  1. QB Mike Brown
    This redshirt junior from Charlottesville is entering his first season at the helm of this offense, and game one certainly didn’t disappoint. Before yielding way to the reserves, Brown went for 338 yards and 4 TDs on 17-22 passing. Brown seems to be capable of taking over the offense and lighting up the scoreboard. He’s a dual threat as well, able to run as well as pass, and athletic QBs are the ones BSU has had a tendency to struggle with.
  2. RB SirChauncey Holloway
    St. Francis could only sit and watch as Holloway ran over, around, and through them last week, ringing up 49 yards and TD with just under 7 yards per carry. The redshirt sophomore from Florida also is one of the best blocking running backs you’re likely to see, so blitzing Brown could prove to be a challenge.
  3. DB Chris Mayo
    10 total tackles and a tackle for loss make this freshman safety one to keep an eye on when Ball State has the ball. The curious thing, and perhaps the most important, is he’s excellent in run support, which means Quale, Sykes, or Williams may find themselves with him as the “Man to Make Miss” in the running game. A high school track star, Mayo is athletic, agile and loves contact.
  4. WR Chris Summers
    Summers certainly showed his talent in the season opener for Liberty, going for 7 catches, 129 yards, and two scores. This redshirt junior also gives the Cardinals significant matchup problems. With his speed, coverage with a larger stronger linebacker may prove challenging. However, with his 6’4″ height, a smaller defensive back will have his work cut out for him.

3 Ways We Win

  1. Run the Damn Ball
    With a high-powered offense, the fewer times and smaller amount of minutes that Liberty has possession is a good thing. If the Cardinals can keep control of the ground, sustain drives, and not allow Liberty to fall into an up-tempo rhythm, then the outcome of this game shifts its way to the Cardinals.
  2. Hold on to the Damn Ball
    Curious thing about these FCS programs that have reasonable talent and are well-coached… if you gift wrap a victory through mistakes and miscues, they will happily unwrap it and toss it into their bus. This Ball State team cannot make this victory for Liberty an easy one by fumbles, INTs, or special teams mistakes. If BSU holds onto the ball, pays attention to detail, and executes, then a victory is almost a guarantee.
  3. Pressure, Pressure, and Pressure Some More
    For the Cardinals, this will most certainly be the most daunting task of the defense to date. Again, Liberty is no SEMO and the Cardinal defense is smack dab in the middle of a put up or shut up moment. Pressure up front will disrupt the Flame offense and not allow these tall and fast receivers to beat their coverage. If the pressure doesn’t come, and Brown is allowed to sit back and pick apart the D, then it’s anyone’s guess who’s left standing when the clock reads zero.

2 Cardinal Questions

  1. Who Carries the Load for the Cards’ Rushing Attack
    Before this season started, most expected Quale Lewis to get the lion’s share of carries out of the Cardinals backfield. After game one, Eric Williams had the best statistical impact. In truth, that’s a good problem for the Cards to have, as they have three running backs capable of very different skills and very different strengths. No matter how the rushing game fares or how Liberty attacks it, BSU has the ability to throw one of any three talented backs at them, a factor of this game that will become extremely important when the defense begins to wear down.
  2. Who Carries the Load for the Cards’ Defense
    When it comes to pressure and run stoppage, Andrew Puthoff and Robert Eddins will be the straws that stir the defensive drink for the Cardinals. If they, along with the rest of the front seven, struggle to get to Bown and contain Holloway, then the defense may get gashed, resulting in the need to shift the offense away from the run and more to the pass, recently a dangerous game for the Cardinals. The matchup of the Liberty offensive line and the BSU defensive front will be the deciding factor.

1 Bold Prediction
The long and the short of this game comes down to the Cardinals. Taking nothing away from Liberty, as they are a solid team with solid coaching and solid experience, but the brass tacks of this contest and the ultimate outcome will be a direct result of Ball State’s execution. A precise exacting attack that is free of mistakes and it’s a BSU win… easy as that. The difficulty of this prediction is the result of our belief in whether or not that mistake free game actually happens. If Liberty gets some presents from the Cardinals, they’re a talented enough team to take advantage of those and make the journey to victory extremely uphill for the Cards. The official OTP prediction? BSU plays well, not perfect, and this game comes down to Cardinal kicking. Look for Ian McGarvey’s field goals and Steven Schott’s kickoff will ultimately make the difference in this 31-24 victory for Ball State.

Go Cards!

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One Response

  1. Gonna have to disagree with you on the score 🙂 LU 36- BSU 35

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