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Ravens Release Keith Wenning

Photo credit: Kurt Hostetler, The Star Press

Keith Wenning, always a Cardinal

It’s never been said that the NFL was anything close to easy or fair, and I’d say with the news out of Baltimore that Keith Wenning has been released by the Ravens, that point just hits closer to home than usual for Ball State fans. After being a 6th round draftee last spring, Wenning spent the 2014 season on the practice squad while the Ravens carried only two QBs on their game day roster. With the offseason pickup of Matt Schaub, Keith’s window was slowly closing. Compounding that fact was undrafted free agents that the Ravens needed roster space and dollars for, so Keith was shown the door.

From all accounts around the Ravens and the Wenning camp, Keith certainly was working like an all-star, frequently the first in and last out of workouts and practices. That should come as no surprise to BSU fans, and neither should the universal praise of Keith as a person and player. It’s a harsh reality that often times in the NFL, and any for profit business for that matter, sometimes hard work, attitude, and skill pale in comparison to money and numbers. A harsh reality but a reality all the same.

In my heart, I know that this is the start of Keith’s journey and nowhere close to the end. Of the myriad players I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and chat with over my time covering Ball State, none have been as humble, sincere, and just all around decent, the way that Keith was. Whether it’s football, business, or just life in general, Keith will be tremendous and a tremendous representative for Ball State and its football program.

Philosophically, though, it is somewhat disappointing that players like Keith struggle to make it in professional sports while countless headcases, discipline problems, and legitimate delinquents make roster after roster. Something isn’t right with that situation.

NCAAs Start Today, Won’t be as Good as 2001 Maui Classic

I guess if you beat a Top 5 team at the buzzer, you can take a breather.

I guess if you beat a Top 5 team at the buzzer, you can take a breather.

That is Patrick Jackson, or Petey as he was known to fellow students. He looks tired. He looks happy. I guess when you hit a buzzer beater to defeat Kansas (ranked #4) in the Maui Classic, I’d say both those emotions apply. But it wasn’t just Kansas. Their reward for beating #4 on national television? A date the next night with #3 UCLA, who the Cardinals promptly ran out of the gym with an 18-point beating. The Cards would go on to lose to #1 Duke in the championship game, but they would enter the next week at #16 in the associated press poll. So as you watch upsets unfold over the next few weeks in the NCAA tourney, just remember that BSU has been there done that on the national television stage. With any luck, Coach Whitford may get them there again.

Willie Snead Makes First Cut at Cleveland

cleveland browns logoThe Cleveland Browns announced their first round of cuts from training camp today and Willie Snead was not among them, though three other wide receivers were. There are currently 9 active WRs on Cleveland’s roster (Snead included), but that includes Josh Gordon who is facing at least some level of potential substance abuse suspension. If you’re a Willie fan, hope for a season-long suspension. Or longer.

NFL rosters have to trim down to 75 by 4pm Tuesday and the Browns are currently at 76. Additionally, there will be 23 people from that 76 that go home as well, considering rosters need to be at 53 by August 30. So while there is work to be done, the first hurdle is semi-cleared assuming Willie isn’t the last name called over the next 28 hours or so.

Last season, the Browns carried 5 wide receivers for the season on the active roster, so taking Gordon out of the equation with a presumed suspension, it means Willie will need to beat out any three of Miles Austin, Travis Benjamin, Nate Burleson, Taylor Gabriel, Andrew Hawkins, Charles Johnson, or Marlon Moore to make one of five active WR spots.

Realistically, Austin, Burleson, and Hawkins are all probably locks to make the active roster. Between Benjamin, Gabriel, Johnson, and Moore, Benjamin is probably the most likely in the next group, leaving Willie to battle for the 5th spot with Gabriel, Johnson, and Moore. Moore is entering his fifth season in the league, with 43 appearances and two starts. Cleveland picked up Johnson from Green Bay’s practice squad in the offseason. Gabriel is a fellow rookie out of Abilene Christian.

Cards Send Two More to the NFL

cleveland browns logoYou thought the only chance the Cardinals had to land a football alum on an NFL roster rested with Jonathan Newsome, Keith Wenning, or Willie Snead? Think again. Today BSU announced that Nathan Ollie and Zane Fakes are on their way to Cleveland with Snead with an invite to rookie minicamp set to take place this weekend.

From BSU…

Willie Snead, Zane Fakes and Nathan Ollie — all members of the 2013 Ball State football team — will get an National Football League opportunity with the Cleveland Browns.

Willie Snead, a junior wide receiver on the Ball State football team in 2013, has signed a free agent contract with the Browns, while Fakes and Ollie have each received invitations to attend mini-camp.

The Cleveland Browns signed 11 undrafted free agents, including four wide receivers, two offensive linemen, one running back, one fullback, one quarterback, one defensive back and one defensive lineman.

Snead finished the 2013 season with Ball State single-season records in receptions (106), receiving yards (1,516) and receiving touchdowns (15). His 1,516 receiving yards in the 2013 season ranked third in the nation. Snead completed his Ball State career ranked second in receiving yards (2,991), second in passes caught (223), second in touchdown catches (26) and first in 100-yard receiving games (13).

Snead, who is only one of two players in Ball State history to manage two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, helped the Cardinals to a 10-3 overall record in 2013 and an appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl. He helped Ball State to a 9-4 mark and a trip to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg in 2012, and a bowl eligible season of 6-6 as a true freshman in 2011.

Snead, who declared for the National Football League after his junior season, was named to the 2013 All-Mid-American Conference First Team and was a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award this past season.

Ollie, who was named Ball State’s 2013 John Magnabosco Award winner as the defensive most valuable player, managed 72 total tackles last fall. He also led the Cardinals with six quarterback hurries and ranked second on the team with 10 tackles for loss plus added four sacks. He earned All-MAC Second-Team honors as a defensive tackle for Ball State.

Fakes, who was awarded the Paul Schudel Strength and Conditioning Award last season, was named to the All-MAC First Team as a tight end in 2013. He managed 41 receptions for 410 yards and two touchdowns. Fakes earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State in May of 2013 and earned Capitol One Academic All-America honors this past fall, while pursuing his master’s degree.

In addition to these three heading to the Cleveland Browns, Ball State’s Jonathan Newsome was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and Keith Wenning was chosen by the Baltimore Ravens.

As if I needed further reason to make Cleveland my secondary NFL team behind the Bears and Colts, this seems like as good a reason as any. Three BSUers with a chance to make the squad and Johnny Football? Sign me up. I suggest you do that same.

Expecting to Win vs. Hoping to Win

This is our street now! Just need Purdue and Notre Dame before we can start charging a boatload for rent.

We are there now.

For the first time in four years I expected Ball State University to win a football game and it came through.

The last time I expected Ball State to win a game was in 2008 prior to the MAC championship against Buffalo. I will spare you the details of that one. Since then I had been merely hoping our Cardinals could pull out a victory.

I hoped for a victory against the MAC’s worst in the Stan Parrish era. I hoped for a victory against FCS New Hampshire and Liberty. I hoped Ball State would at least score 3 points at Oklahoma and Iowa.

Saturday night, as Indiana made a shocking comeback, I still expected Ball State to kick a field goal for the win.

And it freaking happened.

We all knew Ball State needed this one to have a shot at seven wins and bowl game as the journey will be tougher from here on out. Myself, Alan, and pretty much the diehard fans, those who read this blog, knew Ball State was the superior team. The last time I felt that way about Ball State, Nate Davis was under center.

Yes, IU was down to their third quarterback. Yes, Ball State did everything they could to blow their season in the fourth quarter. Yes, Pete Lembo acted up on the sideline making even Kevin Wilson seem rational.

But I could care less now.

For Ball State to beat their bigger in-state rival with a fraction of their budget and resources speaks for how far the program has come. Ball State may never be a BCS team and that is okay. Being able to compete and respected by those BCS teams is the key. You must not be like Eastern Michigan. More on that later.

I expect big things from this football team for the first time in four years and I bet the rest of the fan base does too. Speaking of which…

Will the fans show up?

Ball State: Special Teams Redefined.

This is a HUGE week for the whole attendance problem at Scheumann Stadium. A quality team in South Florida is actually coming to Muncie. There is NO EXCUSE for fans to not come out to this one.

  1. Ball State is coming off a thrilling victory over their in-state rival.
  2. A team like South Florida only comes to Muncie about once every 10 years and that might be pushing it.
  3. It is a Saturday afternoon start so students will have time to sleep in. Alumni will have time to travel from outside areas.
  4. As a September game the weather should be nice.
  5. South Florida will hopefully bring up south Florida women.

Make no jokes, if less than 15,000 fans show then Lembo should walk out and take the first job that comes his way after the game. Over 20,000 fans should be the goal.

The diehards will have to push the casual folks hard this week. Maybe a Facebook event or a Twitter hashtag could help. I am thinking #BSU20K or #FilltheScheu, but just make an added effort this week.

In other MAC news

This is why it is important to be respected by BCS teams. A radio man and former Miami Hurricane player, Dan Sileo, made an epic rant on his struggling team this past week and took a shot at Eastern Michigan in the process. Given the Eagles first three games this season their defense is pretty weak to this. Just a reason why it is important to be respected by the BCS snobs. Starting with a flimsy Indiana team is a start, but for some in the MAC a start is out of reach.

You better respect Ball State on Saturday South Florida. I expect them to do so.

The Photo to End All Photos

In case you aren’t following OTP on Twitter, (and why the hell not?!) then you missed this nugget from the Ray Louthen Memorial Golf Outing on June 15…

Brady Hoke and Pete Lembo. Odds are if you’re reading this blog you already know that.

I would strongly suggest not letting your wife, girlfriend, daughter etc. look directly at that photo or they may become instantly pregnant. Don’t ask about the logistics of through-monitor impregnation. It’s extremely complicated and neither you nor I could ever fully understand it. Trust us. It’s real. Don’t ask how we know.

EXCLUSIVE: Ball State Safety Joshua Howard Prepares for NFL Draft

Writers note: Sometimes as a reporter, columnist, blogger or rascal, you catch a break. I am friends with Ball State safety Joshua Howard and he was able to inform me on his future plans this week. At a newspaper this would be a conflict of interest but at a blog it is fair game.  As Charlie Sheen would say if he were a Ball State fan, “Wenning!”

Joshua Howard

Ball State Safety Joshua Howard is trying to take his talents to the NFL. It is good to see Ball State players place themselves in a position to play on Sundays. Howard is away from Muncie preparing for the draft and I can speak for everyone here at OTP we wish him the best. Here is a statement from No. 20 himself he gave me over Facebook.

“I am currently in Richmond, Virginia training for Ball State’s NFL pro-day. I just got in on Tuesday (1-10-12), and I will be back in Muncie around the end of February/beginning of March. I have a full out workout schedule that starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. (of course with meals and breaks in between all of that). I was contacted by a trainer, and I let my agent know immediately about this wonderful opportunity. I am also still a Ball State student, I am enrolled in online classes. So I will be able to still graduate and train for NFL preparation. It’s a wonderful situation I am in, and I am extremely thankful for everyone who made this possible. So, I will be back around Spring Break but until then, good luck to the entire Football program with preparation for next season. Also, thank you to everyone who has a part in every bit of my success, I greatly appreciate it. Until I return, as always — GO CARDS!”

It is nice to see that Howard is going to still be able to graduate while preparing for the draft. I guess that saying “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” was false. It is also impressive Howard all ready has an agent. The only agent most Ball State students could get is if we robbed a bank and were assigned a crummy public defender. Not that we would actually do that.

The Cardinals need more alumni in the NFL. Each touchdown pass Drew Brees throws in New Orleans is free marketing for Purdue. Ball State can only point to a couple of punters as their NFL products right now. If Howard and fellow safety Sean Baker (a lock to be drafted in the first four rounds) can have successful NFL careers than maybe Ball State can ditch nickname “Punter U” for the new moniker of “Safety U.” Granted, that name may confuse Ball State with a Lifeguard class.

Even more important is what this says about the senior class. Howard, Baker, and maybe center Kreg Hunter will get a chance to prove themselves in NFL training camps this summer. This senior class has gone through multiple coaches, coordinators, and experienced more drama than most recruiting classes should ever have to face. From the penthouse in 2008 (12-2) to the outhouse in 2009 (2-10) to a middle-class home in the suburbs in 2011 (6-6). Is this college football or is this real estate?

Coach Pete Lembo has been given a bulk of the credit for turning the ship around but the senior leadership on the roster was a huge help. They knew what it was like to win and made sure their younger teammates were just as passionate about returning to glory.

For now we wish Howard the best. I could list the NFL teams that are in need of a safety but that would double the size of this column. “Safety U” is sounding better and better all ready.

Catching a football with No. 20 closing in can ruin your weekend as this Central Michigan player is about to learn the hard way.

Nate Davis Released from Seahawks

After getting our hopes up that perhaps the NFL dream for former Ball Stater Nate Davis may materialize in Seattle, the Seahawks dashed those hopes this week by releasing Davis. After signing a futures contract with the team after being released by the San Francisco 49ers last season, Davis now finds himself watching the labor dispute play out without a team to call home. The crummy thing about all of it is quite poor timing for Davis, as this collective bargaining agreement situation impacts teams’ willingness to sign anyone, but most especially a mid-round draft pick with a lack of experience and a significant questions surrounding their feasibility in the NFL. Best of luck to Nate catching on somewhere, but I’m not holding out a tremendous amount of hope. Looks like Brad Maynard and Reggie Hodges have the title of “Most Recognizable Current Ball State Alum in the NFL” pretty sewn up.

No number in your program, still #1 in our hearts. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam, File)

Wear Your Support for Nate Davis

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for a way to help support Nate Davis as he attempts to play his way into the good graces of Mike Singletary and his giant wooden crucifix. With Alex Smith facing some potential injury time, it’s time to fire up the bandwagon and drive it right into the heart of San Francisco to let them know there is a potential gem sitting on their practice squad. We as Ball State fans know the capabilities of Nate, but apparently those that be in 49erland have yet to sort of grasp this concept. Or they have and they just really enjoy losing. Either way, it’s time the Cardinals fans pay it forward for Nate. And you can do that by ordering one of these human billboard makers known as a Tshirt from Niners Nation Online. What does it look like? Glad you asked…

For any BSU fan or Niners fan who gets one of these puppies, photos themselves in it, and sends it our way we’ll not only publicize on the site, but we’ll send it to the 49ers. Picture by picture, email by email. Because we’re bored and we have nothing better to do than try to get our former Cardinal some NFL playing time, and this sure beats the pitchforks and fire-lit items we were going to use to make our point.

So order the shirt here, and send an email in your new duds to overthepylon[at]gmail. Winning photo deemed by either us or the commenters will get some sort of cool little prize. How do we judge who wins? Who knows. Could be location, could be background, could be anything really. Erin Andrews in the tshirt alone? Yeah… that’s gonna win. Buy the shirt, support Nate, have some fun.

Football Night? More Like Nate Davis Night

The gloved one... ready for prime time. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam, File)

In case you are sitting there wondering how you’re going to spend your Sunday evening, then Cardinals fans, I have your answer. Say no to your significant other and their pandering for the Army Wives season finale. DVR Big Brother. Skip whatever else the networks are jamming down your throat. Tonight, at least for  Ball State football fans, there is only one option… Football Night in America on NBC.

Normally, I would rather watch two urinal gnats consummate their union before suffering through a preseason NFL game, one that will of course be dominated by an old man who has no business anywhere near the NFL. Of course, Peter King has to work somewhere I guess. ZING! Seriously though, tonight’s broadcast will be overwhelmed by Brett Favre, who of course came back to football, shocking no one, infuriating even more than were pissed last year after the Favre dog and pony show.

No, we aren’t making (or even recommending) you watch to see Favre’s loose skin and old man balls or Peter King’s subsequent washing of those low hangers. Watch with purpose, and that purpose has to do with the Vikings’ opponent tonight… the San Francisco 49ers, who happen to have one particular player wearing #7 that matters to all of us. After watching him suffer in a 3rd string role all of last season, tonight may very well be the coming out party for Nate Davis, as the 9ers have announced that he will see significant action with the 1st team from the start of the game.

Exactly how much Davis gets used, and in what format in terms of time or series, hasn’t been released, but Nate’s finally getting a shot to shine. National television, first teamers, in a game where many many many people will tune in just to see Favre. Here’s his chance to show the people focused on the past just who is the future, and OTP wishes him well as this opportunity unfolds. Make us proud, Nate, we know you will.

***Tune in to NBC at 8pm this evening for Nate’s coming out party.***