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Week 1 Review: Cards Win Bird Battle

Why is Ball State playing a team that looks like Frosty the Snowman?

When you have been attending Ball State football games for a while you developed some memories based off of where you sit in the stands. I can tell you where I stood from the 2008 undefeated clincher against Western Michigan to where I was for the embarrassing losses to New Hampshire and Liberty.

Thursday, I sat pretty close to where I was for the Liberty game providing some bad omens. After Eastern Michigan took a 13-10 lead, myself and the rest in our section felt we were headed to another night of heartbreak. For Ball State fans, heartbreak is what we expect after numerous examples. Especially for those who followed the men’s basketball team last year.

That’s where things change for this Ball State football team. The mentality towards adversity has gone from “here we go again,” to “now it’s my turn.” When things got tough under Stan Parrish the team folded. When things get tough under Pete Lembo it is just a speed bump.

We saw that with the way the Cardinals came out in the third quarter. In what might be the most shocking play I have seen in Muncie, running back Jahwan Edwards ran for a 75-yard touchdown. Instead of cheering I just stood there with my jaw opened wider than most hybrid cars. How did that just happen? How did Edwards, a power type back, just fly past Eastern’s secondary like they were grandmothers with walkers?

That was the moment I went from waiting to see how Ball State might blow another winnable game to wondering how much damage it can do at Clemson.

What we learned

As a dual-threat quarterback we knew Alex Gillett would cause problems, but he was a huge reason while Ball State won. Instead of using his mobility to extend plays to give more time to his receivers, he ran downfield too much. Ball State’s defense is strongest at its front where it can handle most running plays. The secondary is the issue. That is why every time Gillett launched one deep fans held their breath. When he took off with the football we breathed easier. That is part of the reason why Eastern was 3-12 on third downs.

While Wenning and Edwards got the glory Thursday the offensive line deserves all the credit. When a team has about 600 yards of offense it means the line was kicking some serious butt.

The running game may be stronger than it was when some guy named MiQuale Lewis was in the backfield. If Edwards keeps this up then you better believe it is. Eastern’s defense kept bouncing off Edwards all night like he had a force field.

Eastern Michigan’s white uniforms look liked snowmen

I get the fad to mix things up with the uniforms but Eastern Michigan had almost no green on their jerseys. The result is 11 snowmen or stormtroopers on the field and that’s the nice way of putting it. If their helmets had a pointed tip at the back it would have been a Klan rally. Now we wait for Ball State to show off the new black unis. The IU game would be the best time for it. It will be a funeral for Kevin Wilson’s coaching job after all.

Adventures in local media

The Fort Wayne papers have a good reputation for sometimes covering Ball State better than the Muncie Star Press. That reputation took a hit with me after Tom Davis of the News Sentinel wrote this ulcer of a column. If Davis were to read some of my posts he would know about the many factors impacting attendance at Ball State games. He would also have heard from Ball State’s own Jamill Smith on the feud between Muncie and Ball State.  As a Thursday night game few alumni in Indy, Cincy, and Fort Wayne could make the trip with work the next day. This left Muncie to carry the load and we know the problems there. The only demographic who could come out in full force were students and they did. Despite many with night classes and other obligations over 6,000 students were at the game. Roughly a third of the student body.

The real issue that Davis should write about is the dumb placement of the marching band at the seats on the 50-yard line. Many students were forced out to the 10-yard line sections causing them to get bored and leave at the half. The people in my section were complaining about how all the action was on the opposite side of the field the whole game. I respect the marching band but putting them in the spot where students want to sit may scare them off in future games. As for Davis, if only 12,000 fans show for the South Florida game then you can write that column. Remember, only about 9,000 fans came to the first game in Muncie last year against Buffalo. Thursday’s game was a 3,000 improvement. For Ball State attendance that is a nice step in the right direction.

There are some empty seats but does that mean fans do not a deserve a good football team?

Davis and other reporters get a behind the scenes look at the program. They will always be the first to know if a coach is doing a great job building a team. Fans can only make that judgment through wins on the field. It will take time for fans to come out to games in the way Davis believes the team deserves. A 6-6 season without a bowl game does not exactly equal an attendance boom in week one.

In other news Doug Zaleski of the Muncie Star Press picked Ball State to go 4-8 on the season. I thought I was harsh predicting a 5-7 year. I guess when it comes to negativity the Muncie Star Press will find a way to win.

As a result the award for best local coverage so far in 2012 goes to my boys Andrew Mishler and Mat Mikesell from the Daily News. Both traveled to London to cover the Olympics and will have little trouble landing a job in a year. If even I can get job at a newspaper I am completely jealous to think of what they might be doing after college.

While I am a member of the local media in New Castle I do not cover sports. Instead I do fun stuff like going to jail.

What MAC fans should brag about this week to their snobby Big Ten neighbors

If you love talking smack with fans of BCS teams and this is how to go about it. Try to boast about Ohio for winning at a wild crowd at Penn State. Talk about how Bowling Green and Buffalo played well at Florida and Georgia. Mention how tough NIU’s defense was against Iowa. Give Miami  credit for having a 3-0 lead in the first quarter at Ohio State.

What MAC fans should sweep under the rug this week

Do not mention the rest of the Miami game. Try to convince your Big Ten friends Akron and UMass are FCS schools. Make up a food poisoning story for Western Michigan prior to their Illinois visit. Do not bring up the Kent State player who ran the wrong way in their win vs. Townson. If encountered by a boastful Iowa fan try to find some way to blame the refs in the NIU game. Avoid discussing how Central Michigan came close to losing to an FCS school. Say the Toledo game at Arizona did not really happen because it was played at 2 a.m. EST.

The fact is after the first week Ball State looked like the best team in the MAC West. It is early but still nice to say that.

Nathan Pace is a 2012 BSU graduate and is the new police beat for the New Castle Courier-Times. If you have story ideas he can be contacted at npace@thecouriertimes.com

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2 Responses

  1. If students don’t like how the action isn’t in front of them, they can move to a different part of the stadium. If they’re bored in a game where BSU is winning, they should stay home. If they stay home, they have no right to complain about Tom Davis’s article (which was spot on, by the way).

    Always an excuse with BSU students. Weeknight game? They have class/have to get up early the next day (my personal favorite). Saturday game with noon kickoff? Too early to get out of bed. That’s not even factoring in the weather (too hot, too cold, too rainy, etc.).

    We have no control over Muncie choosing to pretend BSU doesn’t exist, but let’s not pretend the student support is anywhere close to adequate. It’s not.

  2. Most BCS schools would kill for 1/3 of the student body to show up for the home opener. As pointed out by WCRD’s Pat Boylan, there were 6,500 Purdue students at their home opener this weekend, for a Big Ten team coming off a bowl win with reasonably optimistic expectations. That’s a whopping 400 more students than at the BSU-EMU game. Purdue has *twice* as many students as BSU on campus.

    Davis’ column was pretty good, but 6K students in the house ain’t the problem. Only 6K non-students on hand from a community of 71,000 + the 50,000 alumni within one hour of campus is a *gigantic* damn problem, however. The city of Muncie’s abysmal support for BSU athletics is shameful.

    Don’t get me wrong — getting students engaged and in attendance is very important. But there isn’t a successful FBS program anywhere that expects their students to be sole driver of attendance. We need alumni and locals to do a *MUCH* better job of that before we go barking at the students

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