Welp, I guess the days of Ball State fans being able to chalk up a service academy as a for sure W are in our rearview mirror. With Saturday’s 24-33 loss in West Point, the Cardinals fall to 1-4 and I’d say we have reached the point where even the owners of the rosiest colored glasses are going to ask some questions about the goings on in the Fisher Football Complex. Whether your emotions range from confusion, questioning, anger, rage, frustration, or abject apathy it’s safe to say that this coming week is going to be bumpy, which is a shame considering it’s Homecoming Week in Muncie.
As for today’s freshly piled bullshit, there were times when things seemed to be clicking. I could point to the myriad runs that Quake Edwards was able to rip off (usually with multiple Army cadets hanging on him) as evidence that offensive bursts and big plays are possible. I could point to the penultimate offensive possession for the Cardinals that resulted in a Dylan Curry touchdown as proof that Ozzie Mann is capable of moving this offense down the field in an effective manner and good decision-making. Hell, I could point to the drive before that one as the definition of steady and effective playcalling and performance.
But there’s a flip side to those arguments as well. Like the 6 of 8 drives before those that resulted in either a turnover, a turnover on downs, or a punt, none of which was over 23 yards or 6 plays. There was the piss poor defensive effort across the board, allowing 425 rushing yards, gargantuan even with Army’s slanted run-first option attack. Yet again, Ball State was shadowed in time of possession (38 minutes to 22 minutes), committed more penalties (4 to 1), and had more turnovers (2 to 1). Those sorts of things have not happened under the direction of CPL and when they did, they certainly didn’t all happen together to combine into a cacophony of suck. If you made the argument that it wasn’t as close as 33-24, and BSU shouldn’t have been within 9 points of Army given their performance I couldn’t really counter that. Going 1-8 on third downs and allowing 9 of 15 third down conversions isn’t going to win you many football games.
Weren’t we all messing our britches over Kevin Kelly’s first few games in Muncie? Perhaps he was jealous the offense was getting all the attention (albeit negative) and wanted to share in the spotlight. Well, welcome aboard the suckwagon, Coach Kelly. You’re new here but it’s your turn in the barrel. I am aware the option requires defensive precision and assignment football. That didn’t seem to be happening on Saturday. The defense seemed ill-prepared and underdeveloped and that is squarely on the coaching staff. How did we spend the idle week? Playing Super Smash Brothers and refreshing the Fappening page on Reddit?!
Supporters of CPL will say he has coordinators responsible for those sorts of things, and they would be correct. But the CEO has the responsibility to ensure his cabinet is doing things the correct way. Ultimately, there’s a heaping pile of blame for piss poor playcalling and a general lack of preparedness that goes to all three of the guys at the top. At some point, you can’t blame it on being a new coordinator. You can’t blame it on a first-time starter. You can’t blame it on the rain (Milli Vanilli reference… drink!). In fact, at this point, I take the entirety of my frustration off the players and put it entirely on Mssrs Lembo, Lynch, and Kelly.
Ultimately, where I shake out is perhaps simplistic, but I’m a simple kind of guy. It would appear to me that the playcalling is conservative at best, completely incorrect at times. That is 100% a coaching issue. It would appear to me that the units are at times unfocused, ill-prepared, and not ready to compete at a championship level. Allowing them to get to that point is 100% a coaching decision. Allowing them to remain in the lineup is 100% a coaching issue. Allowing them to remain in the lineup because the remainder of the roster (for the first time in the Lembo era comprised entirely of his recruits) is not any better is 100% a coaching issue.
I sat in the media room after the Indiana State debacle and heard Coach Lembo espouse the usual platitudes of “This is where we’re at”, “No one’s happy”, and “”Trust the process.” After today, I would respond with “Let’s maybe try to be someplace else”, “Good. Welcome to the party”, and “Eh….”. Final Word tomorrow.
Bonus Fun Fact!: Early forecast for kickoff against Western Michigan next Saturday is a high of 55 and rain. I’d put the over/under at announced crowd at 9k and probably bet the under.