On Thursday night, if Twitter was any indication, the Cards’ home opener was going to be big. The build up, the marketing, the social media explosion of BSU football over the last couple weeks seemed to point everyone in the direction of a massive turnout and multiple sets of eyes looking toward the Cardinals to live up to a lofty set of expectations that had begun to build. Thankfully, the opponent on the other end of this visual inspection was FCS Illinois State, a team that by classification alone directed some fans to expect a cakewalk. How wrong we were.
Sometimes in athletics, much like life, the expectations you have for something go unmet, but what you find instead is almost more rewarding. In hindsight, the game that unfolded on Thursday night is extremely more satisfying than a pillar to post beating would have been. Those types of contests, you learn nothing other than your team is capable of beating up on a weaker opponent and your subs are capable of playing mop up minutes at best. At worst, a star gets injured. Those games are true no-win situations despite the statistics rung up.
On Thursday, fans and supporters were capable of tangibly walking away feeling something other than sorry for an overmatched opponent. They saw a Cardinals team take a punch in the mouth to open the game and continue to fight. They saw a defense that got shredded bow up and play strong. They saw a coaching staff able to make schematic adjustments and edits at half to maximize effectiveness. They saw the Cardinals offense that had streaks of pedestrian play burst to life when it needed it the most, perhaps the biggest indicator of a “great” team.
Those sorts of lessons were unexpected, but so exciting now that the game has had a day to sink in. The pessimists amongst us will point to the fact that the Cardinals trailed at halftime and didn’t dominate from start to finish as some sort of indictment on Ball State’s talent, Pete Lembo’s plan, or the coaching staff’s ability. To those folks, I say life cannot be much fun for you if focusing solely on the negative in a game with so much positive is how you spend your days. Instead, I will count myself among the optimists for the reasons listed above.
The old adage in football is that the most improvement a team will make is between games one and two of a season. For the Cardinals, building on a 20+ point win over an FCS top 10 school is a heck of a lot better than some 1-to-2 weeks we’ve had in the past. If game one is the indication that I believe it to be, then the 2013 edition of the Fighting Football Cardinals is going to be one to remember.
The final word for Illinois State…
- A sign of what will happen in the future; an omen.
Other random opening night thoughts…
- Dri Archer was dinged up in Kent’s opening night win over Liberty. Hate to see a talented player suffer any kind of injury and I hope it’s more minor ding than major issue. Until he’s back, though, I’d say Willie Snead just moved in to “Top Receiver in the MAC” position.
- In surprising fashion, BG laid the wood to Tulsa in their home opener. After that, the Falcons will surely become the trendy pick for the MAC East and I can’t say I’d blame anyone who fell into that camp.
- The Indiana reaction to their 73-35 route of Indiana State was both comical and sad. Comical in that watching a fanbase so starved for success and football victories overreact in epic fashion and sad that a Big 10 school celebrates a victory over an in-state FCS school with such fervor. I’m not sure beating a bottom-feeding FCS program that’s 16-43 over the last 5 years is a reason to really mess your britches, but I guess everyone has to celebrate something. In all fairness, that record is actually a better winning percentage than Kevin Wilson’s in Bloomington, so there’s that. The game also featured two ejections, one for a targeting play by ISU and one for a Hoosier throwing a punch. You stay classy, Bloomington.
- Towson adds to the list of FCS programs that have beaten an FCS team by knocking off UConn. Is there a team that has fallen farther faster than UConn?
- The Ole Miss/Vandy game was exactly what I needed from opening night. As score after score tumbled in for the last couple minutes of action, it reminded me why college football is so awesome and dominates so much of my time. Welcome back, old friend.
Enjoy your opening weekend, folks!
Filed under: Final Word |