• OverThePylon

    OTP covers Ball State University sports from the blog perspective in the most overzealous manner possible, proving that as long as there is someone with enough free time you can obsess over anything.
  • Connect to OTP

  • OTP Messageboard

  • OTPcast on Itunes

  • OTPcast on Stitcher

  • Help the Pylon

  • Donate to OTP

    A donation to OTP helps keep the site afloat and Cards fans connected. 50% of all donations sent to Cardinal Varsity Club as well. Help the Cards and your favorite blog in one fell swoop!

  • Join Our Network

Know a ’14 Opponent: Army

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to bring back a tradition here at the Pylon, Know an Opponent, in this case, the Know a ’14 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know a ’14 Opponent!

army football logoArmy Black Knights

Throughout my time working for colleges, writing this website, and just being a football fan I have had the opportunity to attend some pretty amazing games, some pretty beautiful campuses, and be a part of some pretty amazing things. Notre Dame marching band taking the field? Check. Watching the eagle fly around the stadium at Auburn? Check. Night game at South Carolina watching Cocky go crazy while 2001 plays over the stadium speakers? Check. Sweating my ass off on a hot September Saturday in Gainesville and wondering if those around me can actually smell the bourbon coming out of my pores? Check. But there’s one thing I haven’t been able to do, and that’s make it to a game at Michie Stadium in historic West Point, NY.

I’ve had my chance, mind you, as I was credentialed for the 2009 game but let the girlfriend at the time guilt me in to staying home. Cue up the Indiana Jones, because I chose… poorly. On October 4th you can scratch something off your football bucket list that should definitely be there and say you’ve done something I haven’t. The sheer beauty of this locale is almost impossible to describe, so check out the search engine of your choosing for some great scenes. Fall leaves, the Hudson Valley, and some old school triple option football at the United States Military Academy against THE Ball State University? Sounds perfect to me.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
With everything the stadium and location have going for them, the football played inside it hasn’t been very good recently. In fact, in the last 25 years, Army has made exactly two bowl games. That happens when you have a losing record in 16 of the last 17 seasons. As for the history against the mighty Cardinals, Ball State has won three straight, holds a 3-2 series advantage, and beat the Black Knights 40-14 last season in the friendly confines of Scheumann Stadium. Army did beat Eastern Michigan last year by 25 points, but hell, who didn’t?!

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Jeff Monken ArmyArmy has a new head man in charge, Jeff Monken, replacing Rich Ellerson who had led Army since 2009. Ellerson had the difficult task of bringing the triple option back to Army, and you can bet that Monken will continue that trend as he has been around the triple option for the majority of his coaching career, coaching under notorious option guru Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern, Navy, and Georgia Tech. Most recently, he was the head coach at Georgia Southern, where his worst record was still a very respectable 7-4 over four seasons at the command. His last season was his worst, as it was also the only time he didn’t lead the Eagles to the FCS Playoffs. Supporters will tell you it’s a blip on an otherwise stellar radar. Cynics will tell you as more of his players took over, the decline begain. Time till tell, I suppose.

Players and Stats of Note
The thing about the triple option is the more familiar you are with it, the better you tend to do, and Monken and the Black Knights certainly have that going for them with nine returning starters on the offensive depth chart. Angel Santiago, the most-used starting QB in 2013 is back, but he did struggle at times last season. It’s possible BSU could see AJ Schurr or Kelvin White if Santiago cannot lead the offense effectively. Running backs, as expected, are a strength of Army. Their depth came to the forefront last season when Raymond Maples (going for his third 1000-yard season in a row) was injured and yielded to Terry Baggett, who promptly rattled off his own 1100 yards and 8 TDs. Fullback Larry Dixon also had 700+ yards and six scores. So there’s that.

Defense is the giant question mark for Army, especially given this season and their new coordinator… Jay Bateman. That name should sound familiar to Cards fans, since Bateman had the same position in Muncie the last three seasons. Onward and lateral? The biggest weakness for Army is the linebacking unit, with only 13 starts amongst the returners. The defensive line and secondary should not only be improved from last season, they are basically the anchor of the defense. If Quake Edwards can get to the second level or Ozzie Mann can abuse curl and in routes, it could be a very long day for the Army defense.

If Army Football Was a Musician…
Edge again chimed in with his selection for this section, him being the musical genius that he is and all. His thoughts: “Army is not ever going to be the best in the band or the best in the FBS, but goddamnit, show some respect. Congrats, Army. You are Ringo Starr.”

How Worried Are We?
By its nature, the triple option is difficult to defend and easy for plays to break loose at any moment. It’s just as likely that you’re going to see a two yard loss as you are to see a 92 yard gain. It is really the definition of “contain”, considering the premise of defending it is strictly assignment football. That’s worry #1. Worry #2 is the familiarity that the Army defense is going to have with Ball State personnel and the basic offensive scheme, given Jay Bateman.

ThreatLevelArmyA nice cool Code Blue for the Black Knights. Without Jay Bateman and the hard to defend triple option attack, I’d say this is the greenest of code greens that another FBS team could be. Those two wrinkles, though, bump the OTP Threat Level up just slightly.

Enemy Recon
If you need to catch up on your Army reading, then feel free to check out the official Army site here. You can also check out some local news coverage here and visit their fansite here.

Kickoff on October 4 is noon and the television provider is CBS Sports Network. Seriously, though, go if you can. You will thank me later.


Know a ’14 Opponent: Indiana State

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to bring back a tradition here at the Pylon, Know an Opponent, in this case, the Know a ’14 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know a ’14 Opponent!

indiana state sycamores logoIndiana State Sycamores

In college athletics there are varying degrees of fierce when it comes to mascots. I have had the misfortune of working and attending some of the weakest. There was Ball State, where even though the Cardinal is the fiercest robin-sized bird it doesn’t strike terror into the hearts of opponents. I followed that with Maryland, home of the diamondback turtle known as a terrapin. God love Maryland, they embraced it and even played to it, with a slogan of “Fear the Turtle!”. But thankfully, I have never had to go to class or an athletic contest knowing that my mascot was the platanus occidentalis, or what non-tree people refer to as the Sycamores.

FunFact!: Indiana State students selected the name through a contest. Most believe students voted for it as a joke, thinking there was no way it could win. It did.

FunFact2!: ISU realized that having a Sycamore tree for a mascot was about as lame as could be, so they changed it. To…. the Chiefs! Complete with an offensive native American caricature and everything! Stellar job on that one!

FunFact3!: Indiana State promptly changed back to the Sycamores. They also created an actual mascot in 1995, known as Sycamore Sam and described him as a “furry woodland creature”. He’s also bright blue, in much the same way that weird inbred family from Kentucky has blue skin. I’m not saying Sycamore Sam is an inbred furry woodland creature, I’m just saying he apparently wouldn’t look any different if he was. So there’s that.

Inbred Indiana State

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
2013 was what some “in the biz” (please use the airquotes when saying that) would call a complete and utter failure. 1-11 and 0-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference. They did beat Quincy 70-7, though, so they certainly got the most out of that lone victory. Quincy may want to consider not dressing the women’s softball team next season for football games. As an FCS team, the Sycamores have the chance to play in the first “playoff system”, not that they would know that. They haven’t made the postseason since 1984.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Mike Sandford Indiana State<– This, is Mike Sanford. Sanford is in his second season coaching the Sycamores and his 37th year as a football coach. His head coaching record is a fairly unimpressive 17-54 (after a five-year run at UNLV in addition to last year at ISU),  but don’t let that number fool you. His pedigree and resume reads like a dream coach. Stops at Utah, Utah State, Louisville, Notre Dame, and USC (where he was also a backup QB and eventual safety on several Rose Bowl teams as an undergrad). Does Mike Sanford have the skill to turn a program around? On paper, yes. But again, sometimes, coordinators that are lighting the world on fire do not a head coach make.

Players and Stats of Note
For the Sycamores, the success of the offense this season falls squarely on senior running back Buck Logan (great name, by the way). Last season saw Logan average over four yards a carry but only 50 yards per game. A new face that could get touches is Cincinnati Bearcat transfer Deionte Buckley. The QB position at ISU also features a Cincy transfer in newcomer Patrick Coyne, but returning starter Mike Perish looks to be the presumptive favorite, given the senior is featured on the Sycamore media guide

Defensively, the Sycamores weren’t awful but they weren’t all that fantastic. Allowing right at 365 yards per game and 36 points per game, that’s not a recipe for success. They return notable players in senior Connor Underwood (All-Conference LB) and Jameer Thurman (DB, runner-up Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year) who have the potential to create issues for a BSU offense that may be either banged up from Iowa or still trying to get their rhythm in a new system.

If Indiana State Football Was a Musician…
This one was surprisingly difficult for me. So I turned to resident OTP musical expert and Muncie bureau chief, Edge. “Hootie & The Blowfish, only with no Hootie.  Like when you ask someone to list Indiana colleges, they usually end with, “oh yeah, Indiana State, I always forget that one.”  The Blowfish get the same response to the question of who were the great 90s bands.”

How Worried Are We?
Given the lack of offensive firepower, the porous defense, and the inexperience at the head coach position, there is no reason for Cardinals fans to be significantly worried about Indiana State. This isn’t Liberty. This isn’t New Hampshire. This isn’t even Illinois State from recent memory. The OTP Threat Level checks in at Code Green, the second Code Green of the non-conference schedule.
ThreatLevelIndianaStateIs it possible that Indiana State pulls an upset? Sure. It’s possible. But as we described in our last piece for Iowa, it’s going to take a Herculean effort from the Sycamores and a significant lack of effort from the Cardinals. There’s the old “Any given Saturday…” logic, but I’d plan for a nice easy Saturday of tailgating, Cardinal touchdowns, and a relaxing afternoon over our in-state brethren.

Enemy Recon
Surprisingly enough, Indiana State has a very active internet community with Sycamore Pride. It’s essentially the BSUFans for ISU supporters, but to see such a vocal and active virtual gathering place for an FCS crowd is impressive. You can check out the website here or follow them on Twitter @SycamorePride.

Know a ’14 Opponent: Iowa

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to bring back a tradition here at the Pylon, Know an Opponent, in this case, the Know a ’14 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know a ’14 Opponent!

iowa_hawkeyes_logoIowa Hawkeyes

Recently, I’ve been engaged in an ongoing battle with some of my staff about which sandwich place is better: Subway or Jimmy Johns. As a lover of Italian Night Clubs along with giant pickles (get your mind out of the gutter, jerks) I have been a loyal Jimmy John’s patron ever since they opened in Muncie when I was in school. Inevitably, someone in this argument will side with Subway and will point to their “better bread”, which might I add is debatable, at best, and completely incorrect in practice. What makes a sandwich place great is the stuff in the middle. The meat. The cheese. The veggies. And that same principle is what makes the first three games of Ball State’s 2014 schedule so difficult to eat. Our schedule sandwich has tasty treats like Colgate and Indiana State, but the heart of the early season triumvirate is what’s between those cupcake pieces of bread… a pissed off, Top 25, Power 5 conference contender that would love to beat the piss out of a MAC team, given that the Hawkeyes have lost two straight to the Mid-American Conference in the likes of Central Michigan (2012) and Northern Illinois (2013). MUST WE CONTINUE TO PAY FOR THE SINS OF THOSE TWO PROGRAMS?

Of course, this isn’t to say that Iowa and Ball State don’t have their own history. It’s bloody. It’s terrible. It’s cringe-worthy if you’re a Cardinals fan, but it is history, all the same. Two times BSU has traveled to the not so friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium and the 70,000+ Iowa fans that congregate there and both times was something I like to affectionately call “a f**king trainwreck”. 2005 saw Shonn Greene’s first game as a Hawkeye go for 116 yards and 2 TDs en route to a 56-0 drubbing. Fun fact: That was a game marred by the infamous Textbookgate at BSU which led Brady Hoke to run afoul of the NCAA and have to sit seven starters. The chance for redemption came for BSU in 2010, but of course, that was also a shower shanking as Iowa laid a 45-0 beating on BSU. The best news was how the Cardinals made Ricky Stanzi and Adam Robinson look like Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson respectively. Two games, zero points scored, 101 points given up. Streaks are made to be broken tho-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… Sorry, I thought I could get through that with a straight face.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
In truth, Iowa has always been Iowa. And what Iowa is, is a consistently good football team. Save for the occasional blip on the radar (like 2012’s 4-8 season) you can pretty much set your watch by the Hawkeye football team. 2013? 8 wins, Outback Bowl. 2011? 7 wins, Insight Bowl. 2010? 8 wins, Insight Bowl. 2009? 11 wins, Orange Bowl. Suffice to say, Iowa’s consistency has been pretty stellar and something most teams would give one of their collective testicles for. Of course, far be it for Iowa to be happy about that. Each year, much like the leaves falling, the temps dropping, or me getting inappropriately inebriated at some sort of athletic event, the mob of people clamoring for Kirk Ferentz’ job hits fever pitch. Waaaaahh… we only won 11 games this year. Waaaaahhhhh… we didn’t compete for a national title. Waaaaahhhh… we missed two bowl games since 2001.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
IOWA FOOTBALL OUTBACK BOWL ANNOUNCMENTGood old Kirk Ferentz. The thing I like about Ferentz is that he’s never a Spurrier-esque prick, despite being able to be one given the successes and stature that he enjoys. He’s the most tenured Big 10 head coach, has been at his current job since 1999, and is the second-winningest coach in program history behind Hayden Fry. 15 years, 11 bowls, and 6 of them wins! Ferentz just goes about his business, doesn’t rock the boat, and keeps thing steady as she goes. And frankly, there’s honor in that. You don’t see Kirk hanging on the top of an RV with a Coors Original Spurrier-style or sitting on a golf cart eating cold Papa John’s like Urban, and frankly, I’m way ok with that. He seems like the kind of guy who would house sit for you, do your laundry, stock your pantry, and scrub your tub. What a swell fella.

Players and Stats of Note
I don’t think I’m revealing trade secrets here when I say that BSU has sometimes struggled against major conference opponents and their rushing attack. Iowa only has four running backs (Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels) in their stable that could all easily go for 1500 yards if they were the featured solo back. So that’s awesome. They also have an offensive line that has skill, size, and depth, with only one new starter so that’s really just delightful as well. The only even moderate question mark is the passing attack with QB Jake Ruddock and his receiving corp. Of course, Iowa (and every other team) doesn’t need to pass much when playing with a lead, so BSU getting out in front however possible is mandatory.

The Iowa defense’s question mark comes at linebacker, but with the skill of their defensive line (Carl Davis, Louis Trinca-Pasat, Drew Ott, and Mike Hardy) it probably won’t be exploited frequently against the Cardinals. However, if Quake Edwards and the offensive line for BSU can bust through to the second level, there are opportunities for success.

If Iowa Football Was a Musician…
Consistent and reliable for the most part, but always worth watching just in case something off the wall happens. You hearken back to the Orange Bowl season and Ricky Stanzi basically telling you to love America or get the hell out, and no season since has every quite lived up to the hype. Reminiscent of Chis Martin and the boys with every record released since A Rush of Blood to the Head. Congrats, Iowa. You are Coldplay.

How Worried Are We?
The last time we issued a bulletin for the OTP Threat Level in regard to the Hawkeyes, we had no choice but to go CODE ARGYLE. Unfortunately, when that warning is followed by a 45 point pantsing, there really is no justifiable reason to lower it. As such, batten down the hatches, chirpers, because it is CODE ARGYLE once again.

ThreatLevelIowaA few years ago, I would have thought any matchup against a Power 5 Conference opponent would result in a Cardinal loss. It was, after all, the way things worked in Muncie. Then came a win against Indiana. Then a win against South Florida. Then last year a victory on the road against Virginia! Cardinals fans have gotten a taste of what beating a “name” school feels like and we want it. We want it bad. If this was last year, I’d say 50-50 odds at worst that BSU walked out of Kinnick with a W and in truth I’d have probably made BSU the favorite. But alas, this isn’t last year, and some stories don’t have happy endings.

I could be a fanboy and ignore common sense. I could tell you how BSU is the bestest team in the entire world and we’re going to beat Iowa’s candyasses from pillar to post, pink locker room be damned. I could tell you how Pete Lembo is so good of a coach that this baby is in the bag. But that would be ignoring some pretty sizable things like two new coordinators, a new sophomore starter at QB, and a relatively undersized and unproven defensive line. Throw all that in a blender and the concoction you come out with isn’t an enjoyable one. As a collective fanbase, our hopes for the Iowa contest should revolve somewhere in the neighborhood of “respectable showing” and “injury-free afternoon”. The best news of all is after being outscored 101-0 in the last two meetings, it’s not like it can get a lot worse.

Enemy Recon
Usually OTP doesn’t play well with others, but that can’t be said about our interactions with our blog buddies from Iowa who run (in my opinion) the perfect example of what a blog is supposed to be. Factual, funny, and always entertaining, in the lead up to Iowa-Ball State, BlackHeartGoldPants needs to be on your daily must-read list. Along with OTP. And maybe Craigslist. You know, for the for sale section. Yes. That.

Know a ’14 Opponent: Colgate

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to bring back a tradition here at the Pylon, Know an Opponent, in this case, the Know a ’14 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know a ’14 Opponent!

Colgate-RaidersColgate Raiders

When I was a little boy, there was a bully in class that was a real piece of work. Made fun of me. Knocked my mechanical pencils off the desk. Acted like my grocery bag book covers were not the absolute bomb. Didn’t appreciate my GI Joe Trapper Keeper. This kid was clearly an asshole. His parents were assholes. His grandmammy was probably an asshole, too. He was also significantly bigger than me and may or may not have spent time in prison. I’d like to tell you about the time I stood up to him, punched him in his asshole mouth, and then went on to third grade glory with the third grade hottie, but not all stories have happy endings. No, I didn’t stand up to Bully McDickhead. I just rode out the rest of 3rd grade, he moved, and I can only assume he is wearing a paper hat to work and using a squeegee mop on the regular. The moral of this story is: I knew my place at the time and didn’t feel like standing up for Duke and his battle against Cobra Command was worth an ass beating. I was a logical thinker even then. Colgate would do well to heed similar advice before journeying to Muncie. You’ve been warned, Raiders. There’s still time. Get out while you still can.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Colgate is in what you might call, “a transition year”. At the head of the snake, Dick Biddle retired after 18 years and 7 Patriot League titles. Replacing him is his Associate Coach Dan Hunt, whose parents would have named Mike had they even a modicum of a sense of humor. Hunt has assured folks that nothing significant will change, and most expect the Raiders to continue to be a pound it down your throat run-first team. In addition to losing their coach, they lose QB Gavin McCarney, who just happened to be the leading rusher amongst QBs in the Patriot League ever. That’s probably going to be felt. Defensively, Raiders fans hope it’s a transition year as last year wasn’t a good one. The unit gave up over 30 points a game, which should make Ozzie Mann and a Cardinal offense hoping to hit the ground running this year slightly excited. They finished 2013 at 4-8, but they did win the Patriot League in 2012, a Patriot League that used to be home to one Pete Lembo.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Dan Hunt ColgateYou know what’s crazy about Colgate’s head coach? It’s an endowed position. Alums of the university help fund the football coach’s salary like some faculty jobs. So Dan Hunt is not just “Head Football Coach”. Oh, no. Dan Hunt is the Fred ‘50 and Marilyn Dunlap Head Football Coach. That is so East Coast. It’s Hunt’s first year in the big chair, but not his first year in the program, as he has been there since 1996, directing the offense. One side of the coin would say he would be the coach that should have the greatest chance for success. He knows the program, knows the players, knows where they keep the paperclips in the supply closet. There’s a flip side to that coin, though, and I’d point to the 2009 Ball State team to demonstrate that just because you are an effective Coordinator there isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to be a successful head coach. Just something to think about.

Players and Stats of Note
As mentioned, the Patriot League’s version of Dan Lefevour is gone, so the next man up for the Raiders is presumably Jake Melville. The sophomore comes in with an Ozzie Mann-esque task of providing just enough of a threat that the run game can flourish. These days it’s rare to have a fullback generate significant headlines, but Raider fullback Ed Pavalko was a preseason All-Conference selection and a three-year letter winner. He’ll be the one clearing the holes for any one of the bevy of running backs that Colgate can trot out. The defense last season for Colgate gave up in excess of 30 points per game, but Hunt has emphasized that the defense will be taking a more pressure approach to their scheme this fall. They return Mike Armiento in their secondary, and after hauling in 6 INTs last season, I’m sure he’s hoping for Ozzie Mann passes gone awry.

If Colgate Football Was a Musician
I think it’s cute that Colgate has decided to step up to the plate and play big boy football. But, the fact remains that they are a bit over their skis. Not all football teams are created equal and the bottom line is that a 4-8 team from the Patriot League with a new head coach and QB needs to know their place and stick to what they are good at, none of which is coming to Muncie and putting the Cardinals on upset alert. “Stay in your lane” is good advice for reaching football teams and bands who cover songs and artists they have no business covering. But you tried, and for that, we thank you. Congrats, Colgate, you are Limp Bizkit covering The Who.

How Worried Are We
The return of the OTP Threat Level!

ThreatLevelColgatePerhaps nothing is more indicative of the growing obesity of America than the fact that appetizers are an almost expected thing. “I can’t wait for the meal, so please, bring me some fried food to tide me over before I get the actual entrée, which will most likely be fried as well.” Sure, it’s gluttonous and probably unneeded, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get an order of Dill Chips or 7 Tidals every time I go to the Brewhouse. In similar fashion, Colgate provides a tasty little morsel to work the kinks out and get an idea of what the BSU offense is going to look like in year one with Joey Lynch as OC and without Keith Wenning at QB. Defensively, the new look Kevin Kelly regime begins with an offense that likes to run, the specific sort of attack that at times flummoxed the Jay Bateman administration. Can the Raiders pull an upset? I assume it is possible. It is also possible that I’m going to come home from work today to find Kate Upton waiting on a bearskin rug with a bottle of bourbon and some dill chips. Mmmmmm…. dill chips. So, Colgate opens our Know a ’14 Opponent with a nice cool Code Green. Next up? Iowa. And that threat level is likely to increase.

Enemy Recon
Surprisingly enough, there isn’t a tremendous web presence for FCS Patriot League teams. People say the same thing about MAC schools, and I know how frustrating that can be. Should you want to read up for yourself on some Colgate goodies, you can check out their official sports page here. There’s a messageboard here and you can check out a fan site here.