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Final Word: Akron

The Final Word 200On Saturday at the Scheu, it was an absolutely picture-perfect day for college football. Bright sun, blue skies, and not a cloud to be found anywhere in sight as the Cardinals looked for win #3 and their second in a row for the 2014 campaign. Leading up to the game, both myself and Jason had emphasized what a massive game it was. With a win, the Cards were still alive for post-season play, albeit on somewhat thin ice, they were still in contention for the MAC West, albeit needing help from others, but most of all, there would be signs of fight and positivity to move forward on.

A loss would have been disaster, and I don’t use that term in some sort of hyperbolic sky-is-falling overreaction. No, it would have been for all intents and purposes a complete disaster that in some respects would have been devastating to the first three years of the Lembo regime in Muncie. The packed houses, loud and boisterous crowds, and appearances on “hot lists” of Coach Pete Lembo would cease and BSU would fall, yet again, into the pile of nonfactors and irrelevants that populate the mass majority of mid-major college football.

The naysayers would tell you that was an almost foregone conclusion heading into Saturday’s game. Akron came in at 4-3, winners of three of their last four, and already with a road win at Pitt on their resume. Their passing game was strong, their defense stout, and even the wearers of the rosiest Cardinal glasses would tell you there were some significant questions about BSU. Passing defense first and foremost, ability to close out a game right up there, and a whole host of other things that weren’t even on the worry radar the last three seasons thanks to an experienced team led by Keith Wenning, Willie Snead, and a host of other vocal put-it-on-me kind of Cardinals. The naysayers were convinced that this was just going to be another loss.

But a funny thing happened on the Cardinals’ way to obscurity, and dare I say, these young Cardinals may very well have grown up in front of our very eyes with their 35-21 victory. In many ways, the first half was what we’ve seen most of this season: missed opportunities; missed chances; and a defense that was anything but a minor imposition to the wishes of the opposing offense. But in one of the most Jekyll & Hyde performances I can remember, the second half was a symphony of success. The offense ran roughshod over the Zips and the defense was a holy terror on turf. Is it possible that the evolution of this iteration of the Cardinals only took the halftime period to come to realization?

With youth comes inexperience and ignorance. Uncertainty on checks, packages, and audibles, but perhaps most importantly, these Cards had to learn how to win. How to get an opponent on the ropes and not let up. Being able to do that in come-from-behind fashion is just a nice little bonus.

The story of the game was the Cardinals defense and the five turnovers they created, which is by no means a sustainable strategy. However, the things that are both noteworthy and repeatable were the performances of Jahwan Edwards against an Akron rush defense ranked 33rd nationally before Quake’s 121 yards and a TD Saturday, and the performance of Jack Milas to put playmakers like Jordan Williams and the aforementioned Quake in a position to make plays. Milas continues to grow, continues to impress, continues to win and frankly, that’s really all that matters.

Saturday was something more than a football game. It felt like a rebirth. I distinctly remember the feeling I got in the Scheu media room after Indiana State. The tension was palpable and frankly, I was dreading having to hear CPL explain an unexplainable loss and see the pained looks on the players’ faces as they fielded questions from the media assembled. Saturday was 180 degrees different. Folks were smiling, jokes were made, CPL was all smiles, pleasantries, and pats on the back. It wasn’t an atmosphere befitting how the season started, and it was most definitely not the atmosphere expected at halftime, but it was most assuredly the atmosphere that this team deserved after Saturday’s performance and the struggles and growing pains they’ve had to endure through this season. Much like a bad break up, time heals all sorts of holes and growth issues, but time takes time. And so, your final word on Akron…

catharsis (n.)
a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension

Some other notes on the victory…

  • Though we noted above that generating five turnovers was not a sustainable strategy, this was the second consecutive game the Cardinals did just that. The ten turnovers in the last two games is the most in a two-game stretch since at least 2000.
  • After Akron’s first four possessions, the defense allowed zero points and only 111 yards.
  • Scott Secor’s 5 made field goals set a Scheumann Stadium record and matched a school record for most field goals in a game.
  • Should Secor make 4 more field goals on the year, he will tie John Diettrich and Steven Schott for season makes with 25. His 21 made field goals puts him #1 in the country for made field goals this year.
  • Quake Edwards has 828 yards on the season and sits just 172 yards short of his third 1000-yard season, a feat only accomplished by Marcus Merriweather, the person Quake took the career rushing record from last week.
  • Speaking of Quake, with his next TD he will pass Ian McGarvey as BSU’s leading scorer. Quake currently sits at 282 and McGarvey has 287.
  • Jack Milas’ rookie success continues as through three starts he has 749 yards, 6 total TDs, and most importantly, 0 INTs.
  • The 15-point comeback (from 21-6) was the 7th largest deficit overcome for a victory in school history.
  • The victory on Saturday was BSU’s 14th in their past 17 MAC games.

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