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Initial Reactions to Ball State-Akron [POSTGAME VIDEO]

OTP Logo 200

That is how you win a ballgame, kiddies. The collection of people who thought Ball State would walk out of the Scheu with a two touchdown win could probably fit in a small room somewhere in the bowels of the stadium. That’s not what matters and certainly not what happened today, though, as the Cards walk out with a 35-21 win, a 3-5 record, their second straight win, and a heaping helping of momentum.

First and foremost, my initial reaction is “WINS ARE FRIGGIN’ AWESOME!” and much more enjoyable than losses. The last time I was in the post game presser it was after Indiana State and this one was considerably different, considerably more positive, and there wasn’t an uneasy thing sort of hanging in the air as everyone wondered how CPL and the Cards were going to explain that loss away.

My second reaction is that I said all week that Akron is maybe the worst 4-3 team in the country. It’s good to be proven right as Akron showed time and time again in the second half why they are now the worst 4-4 team in the country. The pessimists in the fanbase were convinced that the offense couldn’t move the ball, the defense couldn’t stop the Zips, and it was just a matter of time before even more of the sky continued to fall. The tale of two halves showed what this team is capable of and every good team has a moment people can point to as “The Moment” when things sort of fell into place. Today’s win is certainly capable of just that very thing.

Third, if you haven’t seen Quake Edwards in person, make sure you check out a game before he leaves Muncie after this season. The amount of punishment he both doles out and takes through the case of his weekly running back duties is astounding. The fact that he’s both effective and durable is a testament to both Quake and the training staff. He’s now 9th in the MAC in career touchdowns, 1st in school history for yards, and 2nd in school history for 100-yard games.

Obviously getting five turnovers in one half of football isn’t a sustainable gameplan going forward, but damn it was nice to see today from the Cardinals. Whether it was stalwart defense from the boys in Cardinal and White or Akron just falling apart or some combination of the two is sort of a moot point, as the only thing that ultimately matters is that Ball State beat a MAC East contender that was 4-3 and lauded as a strong conference opponent. Akron coach Terry Bowden, ever the master of the obvious said, “The turnovers and all the mistakes in the second half were our melt down.” Yep.

How about Jack Milas?! While happy as can be that he is coming in to his own at the helm of this offense it does raise some questions about why that move wasn’t made sooner.

Overall, this game was exceptionally odd. Between the three straight interceptions, the other turnovers, questionable spots, shaky reviews, stupid penalties, and a whole host of other things, I fully expected this to fall in line with the rest of 2014 and see the Cardinals fail to be on the good end of any 50-50 type of situation.

The final reaction is that it is a testament to the integrity of these players and coaches to continue to perform week in and week out despite the lack of support they have from the student body and community at large. On a picture-perfect fall Saturday, only 7617 made it out to The Scheu. I understand this team’s record is not the dazzling wonderment it has been in recent memory, but that is absolutely no excuse. Wonderful performance from the team, pathetic performance from the fanbase.

Those are my initial reactions, let’s hear from CPL and select players…

Part 1…

Part 2…

Part 3…

 

More coming tomorrow for sure like Final Word and an in-depth look at the win, but this feels awfully good. I would normally be dreading a two and a half hour drive home, but between the W and the Pizza King I’ll have along with me, it’s going to be a breeze.

 

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Initial Army Thoughts

army logoWelp, 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.

Initial Iowa Thoughts

iowa_hawkeyes_logoWell, that certainly sucked.

I’m not going to go into significant detail tonight about this 13-17 loss at Iowa, because frankly, it wouldn’t be productive and I’d almost certainly regret it in the morning. So, we’re going to hit some high notes and then revisit tomorrow with our “Final Word” post, which is just going to be delightful to write, let me tell you.

First of all, the best of the day was the defense. They played a whale of a game and when you hold a Big Ten team to no offensive touchdowns until roughly 4 minutes to go in the game, you’ve done something. Those who point to the last two Iowa drives as some sort of indictment on the Ball State defense need to have their head examined or need to sit down and let someone explain football to them. Kudos to the defensive unit and it is remarkably unfortunate that the storyline of the game will be the Iowa rally against them and the win. That simply isn’t fair.

Second, I thought the offense today was pedestrian at best, predictable at worst, and the common mantra among the fanbase is to sling arrows at Joey Lynch and Ozzie Mann as two people incapable of moving the ball or having offensive success. Was Ozzie Football great today? No. 15/30 for 129 yards isn’t a stellar stat line but going along with his zero TDs was also his zero turnovers until the ill-fated last drive fumble. Fans that expect a new offensive coordinator and a new redshirt sophomore QB to just pick up right where Rich Skrosky and Keith Wenning left off are fooling themselves. It’s going to take time and let’s try to remember that next week is an FCS opponent in Indiana State and no one in the MAC will be as defensively sound as Iowa. Just something to think about. Is this absolving them of a lion’s share of responsibility for the loss today, no. But it is far too early in their careers to completely write off their potential to succeed.

Third, and it’s a big one, is Iowa did literally everything possible to beat themselves today. It’s easy to point to the nine points they left on the field and the penalties they committed on critical BSU conversions, but that would be grasping the low hanging fruit. Add some turnovers and their own confounding coaching decisions and it’s almost like they didn’t even want to win.

Some will point to this game and say, “Ball State covered!” or had Iowa “on the ropes”, but to be sure, there are some significant concerns about this football team that today brought to light. Are they fixable? Of course. Are they going to be? Well, I guess that’s the answer that will be the difference between enough wins to go bowling over the holidays or not. Final word tomorrow, but for now, it’s a bourbon with a pissed offness chaser because this is one that just slipped away.

If you’ve got thoughts, leave ’em below.

Initial Arkansas State Thoughts

go daddy bowlWell, that certainly sucked.

When January started, I decided to go alcohol-free for the month. I can’t tell you how many times tonight I regretted that decision. Whether it be in frustration over a Keith Wenning INT, a celebration over a Eric Patterson INT, a thankful toast for Quake Edwards’ legs and motor, or a cursed salute to the pass happy attack that the game started off with, that decision for Drynuary 2014 was a bad one. But I can only imagine how much more productive my Monday is going to be after not having to drink this one away. You saw it. We all did. The Cards fall on a blocked field goal to Arkansas State 23-20 after toying with all of our emotions in the final five minutes or so.

The thing to keep in mind is that this is a BSU football team that finished second in the MAC West, won double-digit games this season, set multiple school and personal records, and was in all reality maybe five minutes of game action from 14-0. There’s something to take away from that and I sincerely hope that the majority of fans after the initial sting from this wears off remember all of the above. I’d be willing to bet that had I come to you in August and offered you 10 wins, you would have taken it sight unseen. And let’s not forget that every other MAC team that was invited to a bowl lost theirs also, and roughly half of the FBS didn’t even get to go to one. Perspective, folks.

There are myriad things I could harp on tonight, like questionable coaching decisions and playcalling from essentially the first possession all the way up to BSU alums on social media that continue to propagate this idea that BSU football isn’t worth supporting or believing in because this kind of thing always happens. There’s a ton of other things that sort of irked my ire this evening, but that’s for tomorrow. Hopefully some of it will not even be worth wasting OTP real estate on after a good night’s sleep.

Instead, I will focus on the careers of some fantastic seniors like Keith Wenning, Jamill Smith, Zane Fakes, Jonathan Newsome, Nathan Ollie, and a whole host of others who have given their blood, sweat, and tears to a program and a fanbase that I’m sure at times made them question why they did it. This group of seniors deserved better than this, and I am genuinely sorry that they are not leaving as the core group of folks who won BSU’s first bowl game or the first MAC Championship in decades. That’s the real shame in this and one that will likely take more than a good night’s rest to get over.

But for now, it is what it is and BSU is still winless in their seven bowl trips in school history. I’m still damn proud to be a Cardinal and I have a good feeling about #8.

Initial NIU Thoughts: Choose Your Own Adventure

logo200Well, that certainly sucked, now didn’t it? I don’t know what it is about Dekalb that makes 4th quarters so terrible. Two times now I’ve watched a BSU team that had momentum, swagger, and talent come up empty after two brutal fourth quarters, this one to the tune of 21-0 to make the final tally of 48-27 look like a complete blowout. That wasn’t the case if you watched it, thanks to a garbage TD and then a garbage pick six, but final scores don’t get asterisks. As the points piled up and it became obvious this would be a loss for the boys in Cardinal and White, I knew this would be a difficult post game to write. So we’re going to let you choose whichever narrative you’d like to subscribe to.

Narrative 1: Jordan Lynch is so special that it really didn’t matter what BSU did.

It was evident from the jump that BSU was a bit overmatched when NIU had the ball. Jordan Lynch was just too damn good, too damn talented, and too damn special to not lead his team to victory in another home win. There were missed tackles, but that’s to be expected. Lynch is the leading active player in college football when it comes to rushing yards and he didn’t get there by going down after arm tackling. Wenning went for over 300, Quake went for over 150, and the Cards just couldn’t keep up defensively for one of those once in a generation type players. The good news? BSU is still alive for the MAC Championship though they will need help from NIU’s two remaining opponents to punch their ticket to Detroit, which given the performance of the Huskies tonight, that seems like an extreme longshot. The Cards are back in action the Friday after Thanksgiving, at home against Miami, and they will most likely finish the regular season 10-2. They’ll go bowling and in the grand scheme, all is right with the world. They were beaten on a cold night by a better team with a standout player.

Narrative 2: BSU was the recipient of an old-fashioned screwjob in Dekalb

Call me a cynic, but one thing I’m not is stupid. You have a team that for the entirety of their season they average 60 yards a game in penalties. Tonight? NIU had zero. Wow. What an amazing amount of discipline the Huskies formulated in Week 12. How fortuitous. Of course, let’s not forget that arguably the two most critical plays of the game, Jordan Lynch’s 3rd and 10 scramble that was ruled a first down despite his landing out of bounds a yard short, or the Zane Fakes “incompletion” that stalled a 4th quarter drive thanks in large part to the NIU defender that was literally wrapped around him. Clearly, it’s asking a lot for referees and officiating crews that are paid to work the game to make the correct calls. Especially given the fact that if BSU had beaten NIU the MAC cash register would miss out on about 12 million dollars of BCS money. I’m not saying that’s why, I’m just saying it’s something to think about. Once again BSU goes to Dekalb, plays better, plays harder, wins the game, and it’s stolen from them by a crew of second-rate flunkies in striped shirts.

No matter which of the above narratives you choose to subscribe to, this loss is exceptionally painful. From Horactio Banks tearing his ACL earlier this week that leaked out tonight to Quintin Cooper breaking his leg in-game, there just seemed to be a feeling of dread surrounding the Cardinals all night. The onside kick that wasn’t successful, the helicopter field goal from NIU, the myriad missed tackles and jukes, and it just didn’t seem to be BSU’s night. For a team that’s had more than their fair share of things go their way in the last three years, I can’t complain too much about this one. It sucks, it stings, I’d have loved to go to Detroit, but preseason NIU was always the pick. They were higher ranked, more flash, and had a Heisman hopeful in their backfield. This team will still likely hit 10 wins and will still be bowling somewhere nice around the holidays. And let’s be honest, it’s Detroit. No one really wants to go there.

Final Word tomorrow. Man, this one hurts.

Initial Thoughts on CMU

logo200That was a beat down. A healthy, exciting, crowd satisfying beat down. The Cards put a thrashing on the Central Michigan Chips to the tune of 44-24, thanks largely to Keith Wenning playing like a grown assed man. He failed to hit 300 yards for the second consecutive week, but he came as close as possible, going for 299 on 20-29 passing with 4 TDs. Snead had 118 yards and 2 TDs in what has become a ho-hum stat line and Horactio Banks added 143 yards on 11 carries with a score. OTP favorite Jordan Williams only had one catch but it was an 8-yard TD so that’s pretty slick.

It really was never close. With 13 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter it was 21-0 and the slow starting Cardinals seemed to have said enough is enough for the slowness. The final score isn’t quite indicative of the difference between the two squads, as by the end of the third it was 41-10, and it became clear that CMU was still trying to scrap for scores while BSU had lost a bit of their intensity. The good news is it didn’t matter, and when you can drop a 20-point win on a conference opponent, that’s a good night.

The bad for tonight was the injury to Quake Edwards and as of this writing, I have no other news about that. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have something to pass on. The attendance was abysmal, but frankly, with a windy cold night in Muncie, I can’t blame anyone for staying home. Make up for it by coming out to Miami on Black Friday.

What is there to take away from this? Not much. It was a blowout win against an inferior opponent that needed to happen. After a hiccup against Kent, I was curious if this team was capable of putting their foot on the gas and not letting up and this showed that they are. And oh by the way, no matter what happens the next two games the Cardinals have 9 wins this season and are virtually locked into a bowl I would think. All good things from a big win.

On a brief little site note, a big thanks to everyone who tweeted, emailed, and texted to let us know we got a namedrop on the ESPN2 broadcast. It was a backhanded compliment for the program, but any publicity is good publicity. All of us associated with this site don’t do it for that kind of stuff, and really only do it for a love of Cardinal athletics, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little cool. So thanks to all of you for sharing it with us. We’ll have the Final Word up tomorrow, but for now, it’s savoring this win, the 9th of the season, and readying ourselves for an EPIC contest against OUR MOST HATED RIVAL  NIU one week from tonight.

Go Cards and goodnight!

Initial UVA Thoughts

You're looking live at the BSU career passing leader.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

You’re looking live at the BSU career passing leader.(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

On Saturday, UVA proved the age old truth that turnovers kill as Ball State cruised to a 21-point thrashing en route to a 48-27 beatemdown. In epic meltdown fashion, though, it wasn’t just the four Cavalier turnovers. They were massive, sure, but their accompanying side dishes of penalties (13 for 93 yards) and countless drops by the receiving corps of UVA made this a nearly forgone conclusion. With all the negative on UVA’s side of the ledger, if this wasn’t a 20+ point win, I may have even been a little disappointed. To go on the road and have me come away with that potential attitude is so amazing, my head might explode even contemplating it. So instead, we will just cruise right past that paradigm shift in this program.

Some in the media and the blogosphere will call this an upset, and by strictest definition it was, as the Cards were a five point underdog at kickoff. But those that know college football knew that the gap in talent between this ACC team and this MAC team isn’t your usual one. This wasn’t a case where flukes and weirdness led to an upset. As is often the case, the better team just won. Do the turnovers and negatives from UVA make that more likely? Of course. But anyone who thinks that BSU played their A game while UVA mailed it in hasn’t been paying attention. In fact, I’d say if the little things don’t go BSU’s way, it’s still a victory, albeit by a smaller margin. And that’s a great thing. An enjoyable thing. Not Dancing on the Ceiling worthy like the CMU game in 2008, but we’re getting close to a game of that magnitude.

I’m sure the importance of this win for the program and the season will sink in a bit more and we’ll be back with Final Word tomorrow, but for now, it’s celebratin’ time. On the road. ACC. Domination. Feels good.

Some other thoughts on the win…

  • The mantra of this team this year is “Anything. Anytime. Anywhere.” but it might as well be “Overcome” as time and time again the Cards prove that this is not a situation where the 1s are just a good unit and problems are hidden further down the depth chart. The last few weeks have seen a rash of injuries and in turn inexperienced players find the field, and find it well they do. Take the offense… missing KeVonn Mabon, Connor Ryan, and Chris Shillings and the offense doesn’t miss a beat. Quake Edwards out for a game or two? No worries, Horactio Banks has you covered. It speaks volumes to the depth and coaching in Muncie and it isn’t something that should be happening in a MAC team. Enjoy it.
  • Speaking of Quake Edwards, he had a massive day and was one of the primary reasons this “upset” was possible. 155 yards and 3 TDs proves his GrownAssMan-ness and also sets the mark for rushing TDs in a Cardinal career, passing Marcus Merriweather. Excellent job, Quake.
  • While we’re on the subject of records, Keith Wenning did his share of rewriting Saturday also, setting the career passing yardage mark eclipsing Nate Davis. Some will say Nate had less to work with and he didn’t get a senior season. Pay them no mind. Some will call me crazy, but I’ll go ahead and stake my claim that Keith Wenning is the greatest to ever call the shots in Muncie. When 346 yards passing and a couple TDs is just another day at the office, you have something special.
  • In what has become a theme this season, Jordan Williams impressed again going for 159 yards on 9 catches with a TD. We were one of the first to tell people that Williams was going to be a star, and as I said on Twitter on Saturday, he’s making me look a heck of a lot smarter than I am.
  • Special shout out to the BSU defense, who has taken their fair share and then some of the criticism this season. They had a great effort today and created momentum and opportunities with their created turnovers. You can’t have good defense without a good offense, and vice versa.
  • Pitiful attendance for UVA with an announced crowd of just over 38,000 and for an ACC team (even a middling one against a MAC opponent) that’s not a good number. When (not if) Mike London is let go, a lack of support from the fanbase will be one of the reasons.
  • Kirk Herbstreit called a BSU upset this morning, so he looks quite smart. I’ve never felt so dirty after a victory.
  • I have never seen such armchair coaching for a BSU game as I did with this one. The decision to go for it on 4th down in the third quarter was largely and roundly criticized on social media, and it seemed like with the exception of Kelly Page, I was one of the few notable BSU tweeters to stick up for the decision of Lembo and crew to go for it. Granted, it worked out exceptionally well when Jeffery Garrett picked off a UVA pass that led to an Edwards TD that put the Cards up for good, but even if it worked out differently, it was still the right call. We’ve always said “In Lembo We Trust” and that applies here. Live it. Love it.
  • I think I’m guilty of this more than anyone else as I fret and hand wring and pace, but teams like this don’t come along all that often, and we’ve seen two in the past five seasons. My goal going forward for 2013 is to not nitpick the little things or simply look forward to the bigger things. OTP’s slogan for the rest of 2013 is “Enjoy the Ride”. Because I’m not sure when we’ll see another one like this again.

Final Word tomorrow. Enjoy your evening. Go Cards!

Initial EMU Thoughts

logo200Not gonna lie, writing this is way more enjoyable than last week. Whereas last week it was a chore to not overreact and assume the sky was falling, the chore this week is to not place too much glory on top of this win. The Cards won, and I am ecstatic about that, but Eastern Michigan just isn’t that great of a football team. Beating anyone 51-20 is a great thing, and to do so after a morale murdering loss at North Texas is even more reason to be happy, but I’d say that was equal parts EMU awfulness and BSU greatness. However, a thumping is a thumping, and after the turd of last weekend I would have been fine if the Cards beat Northside Middle School by 31.

The offense was exactly what we expected and hoped for, and that was a welcome change from last week. Same for the defense. There were certainly defensive issues, but that’s to be expected and will be going forward. The defense doesn’t have to win games, it just has to not lose them. Special teams? Meh. Another botched snap on an extra point and I’m going to destroy something beautiful. I thought the coaching staff called a great game and there were no head scratching play calls or decisions which I couldn’t say after last week.

Some other thoughts on the win…

  • The Jamil Smith reverse was something I’d been curious why we weren’t using for a while now. With speed like that and defensive assignments that are usually five or so yards off the line in coverage, I thought it was an opportunity for a while. After today, we may see it more and more and I’d be fine with that.
  • Keith Wenning was Keith Wenning again, throwing for 300+ and no interceptions with a couple TDs to match. There were issues with locking onto one receiver or forcing a pass into coverage, but all in all a very solid game for Keith and one he needed. Both for himself and for the fans peering over the ledge.
  • I’d say Quake Edwards made a pretty solid case for himself as the offense’s most valuable weapon. Horactio Banks and Teddy Williamson are good running backs, but this offense is built for Quake and he proved it. BSU just looks like a different team when he’s out there and he announced his return with authority going for three scores.
  • If the Martez Hester injury proves to be serious (which it certainly looked like) that will be felt by the defense. On offense it’s very much a next man up approach with the depth and talent there. On defense, the Cards have unproven youth on the depth chart, but keep in mind, Sean Baker was an untested unproven entity at one point as well.
  • The television coverage was awful. The broadcast was low quality and the commentary was even worse. I lost track of the number of mistakes or rambling comments and instead just focused on the game with the sound on mute. It does make me appreciate the good people in that business and I wish ESPN did a better job of managing their broadcast and their talent.
  • After tuning in it took approximately four minutes for a Stan Parrish clip and statement. I was worried we would have that crammed down our throats the entire game but save for one little segment it really wasn’t unbearable. Their comment of Stan as a head coach “didn’t work out so well” would be the understatement of the week for sure.
  • After the game was over, Bill Scholl could be seen with his arm around Pete Lembo, laughing and having a good time. It’s nice to see that when the prior coaching staff and administration never seemed to have those warm and fuzzy type of moments. A functional staff dynamic leads to good things.
  • It’s going to be hard for me to ever complain about BSU’s attendance again after seeing the hundreds of fans in the stands on Saturday. The official attendance was 5,402 and that seems pretty generous. Maybe they counted the players, staff, ushers, and concession workers.
  • I have a sinking feeling this is the last time we’ll see Ron English. He had everything going for him there compared to Pete Lembo in terms of a recruiting base, decent facilities, etc. and Lembo’s success just makes English’s lack thereof seem worse. If he’s back next year I’ll be shocked.

Final Word will be out tomorrow, but for now, let’s just focus on the fact that the Cards are 1-0 in conference and heading home for Toledo. Seven more MAC games stand between the Cards and Detroit, and with games like today, that goal is looking more and more attainable. 3-1 overall, 1-0 in the MAC, and what a difference a week makes. See you back here tomorrow.

Initial North Texas Thoughts

Scrappy had himself plenty of reasons to celebrate as the Cards drop a heartbreaker to North Texas.

Scrappy had himself plenty of reasons to celebrate as the Cards drop a heartbreaker to North Texas.

I’ll have more tomorrow but this one stings. Quite a bit. Not because of a loss at the hands of North Texas, but more so because of how that loss came to be. Road games against a good team are losable. That’s not the issue, and I struggle to say BSU beat themselves because that gives no credit to a solid North Texas team. But to call that performance from the Cardinals anything but subpar would be understating the obvious.

The defense turned in another jekyll and hyde performance, performing in the first half well at times, serviceable at others, and disappointing only occasionally. The second half was an absolute deplorable performance, but part of that goes on the offense. Extremely short drives that ate no clock put the defense’s back up against the wall in a sweltering Texas heat. Throw in what I consider to be extremely odd playcalling and it was just a mass failure across the board. Even the usual special teams success that we have come to expect from a Lembo-led team had issues, missing two field goals and an extra point. That’s seven points which just happens to be the margin of victory for the Mean Green. The first field goal miss isn’t a significant issue, as it was exceptionally long. Trying one of a similar distance a series later is a head scratcher.

So while I won’t say BSU beat themselves, I will say that with the unit failures, turnovers, and penalties, they put themselves in an almost insurmountable position and the inevitable conclusion just came to fruition. Zero points in a half is inexcusable against all but the stoutest defenses, and though they were good, this wasn’t an Alabama-esque defensive unit. It was just a failure to execute and because of that, the Cards now find themselves 2-1 after a seven point loss in the Lonestar State. Hell, the fact it was only seven is sort of surprising as there were more than a few wide open seam routes for North Texas that could have easily gone for 6 had they simply thrown it in the general vicinity of the receiver. Add in that literally every facet of the BSU game was not all that great and this one could have been much worse. So very much worse.

Some other random thoughts on the loss…

  • Keith Wenning’s interception-free year came to a halt today, as he threw two. He did go for 333 yards with two scores, so that’s something I guess.
  • With the massive amount of tiredness on the field, I’d say the heat was a definite issue. By the conclusion of the game, the line of scrimmage wasn’t a battle at all as North Texas just had their way with the line on both sides of the ball. I’m not sure how a team can be prepared for that in the week leading up to practice, but if so, we failed on that as well.
  • Because of that heat, it would have helped to have Edwards and Patterson. Edwards’ injury isn’t something anyone can do anything about, but Patterson missing a game because of a discipline reason is disappointing and hurt the Cards today.
  • I’d say having Scott Secor attempt a field goal over about 45 yards may not be all that wise.
  • Turnovers on turnovers on turnovers. Shades of Buffalo 2008.

The Cards go on the road next week against Eastern Michigan and let’s hope that this is a one-time bump on an otherwise smooth road. The goals many talked about like winning the MAC West and then winning the MAC Championship are still very much alive, and next week’s game is significantly more important for what it means for those. There’s an old adage that eventually everything reverts back to the median, so perhaps this was just karmic payback for all the close coin flip games last season that went BSU’s way. It’s still great to be a Ball State fan, but this one is going to suck for a while.

Cards Go Ugly Early, Knock Off Illinois State

Coach Lembo has plenty of things to harp on going forward for the Cardinals.

Coach Lembo has plenty of things to harp on going forward for the Cardinals.

The advent of social media has meant so much for the world. It’s spurned on revolutions, kept people informed during times of great tragedy or breaking news, and has let you stalk your exes relatively consequence free. Thursday night, social media proved that the Ball State fanbase as evolved from disengaged apathy to entitled success as fans the country over had what could conservatively be called a “complete meltdown” at halftime of Ball State’s season opening victory over Illinois State 51-28.

To be fair, the game looked like anything but the 23-point blowout it would become as the Cards trailed the FCS Redbirds 21-16 at the half, and it could have been so very much worse had Keith Wenning not connected with Jordan Williams for a 16-yard score just before the opening stanza expired. The five point deficit, hardly insurmountable, was met with terms like “outcoached”. Really?

The Cards certainly deserved a fair bit of ire after a defense was pushed around on an opening Redbird drive for a TD, let a fluke luck TD get scored on the next, and then gave up another just for good measure. Special teams were a mixed bag, as Jamill Smith had a monster return, but a missed extra point doesn’t leave fans in a real happy place. The offense seemed tight, the running game non-existent, and all in all, BSU was getting run out of their home stadium by a scrappy bunch of transfers and passovers from major FBS programs.

But then came halftime. Sweet glorious halftime. And the Cards never looked back. At 6 minutes to go in the game, the Cards had run off 42 straight points and I found myself hoping that whatever Brock Spack had told his team at halftime he burns that speech.

There is much to be worried about. There is also much to be hopeful for. The wise football fan will tell you that the most improvement of the season is made between game one and game two. Building on a 20+ point win over a Top 10 FCS program is a great starting point.

Some random thoughts on the win…

  • Coach Bateman took a beating on Twitter tonight. I hope fans remember that the same defense that got sliced up on the first drive is the same defense that shut ISU down for the better part of 2 quarters.
  • The offensive line turned in a solid mediocre performance. The rushing game was non-existent and that certainly needs to change. I’ll chalk this one up to just game one jitters as opposed to a much bigger problem.
  • How about that crowd?! An announced crowd of 16k+ had a tremendous student showing that didn’t just bail at halftime. For an FCS season opener, on a weeknight, I’m stoked about that. If only the greater Muncie community jumped on board. How great would that be?
  • Player of the Game without question was Willie Snead. 9 catches, 2 scores, 164 yards is exactly the kind of game I hoped he would have. But how about Jordan Williams? That kid is going to be the next big thing. Trust me. Nathan Ollie can’t be undersold either for his contributions in the 2nd half.
  • Keith Wenning had the most pedestrian 300+ yard game you’ll ever see. The stats were dominant, the visceral observation wasn’t.
  • Kyle Schmidt averaged almost 47 yards per punt. I know he got some good BSU rolls, but it looks like Punter U continues.

So all in all, it was exactly what BSU needed it to be. A win, injury-free, and plenty of things for the coaching staff to hammer home in the next week. It started ugly but ended beautifully, and that’s really all you can ask. Survive and advance, and the Cards are 1-0. After this weekend roughly half the teams in America won’t be able to say that. Final Word post coming tomorrow, but enjoy the W tonight. I know I will.