We have a lot of great sites here at SB Nation, but there are times when you have to look out in the great abyss of the Internet for help. Thankfully, the guys at Over the Pylon are a beacon of hope for Ball State Cardinals fans, and they were more than happy to talk a little football before Saturday's game. In this edition of Bulls Recon, we talk about BSU's big win against Indiana, who to keep an eye out for, and new coach Pete Lembo.
1. First off, congrats on the win against Indiana. How big of a victory was this for you and the program?
To be honest, it is big, but not for the reasons you'd think. It's big that it gives the new coaching staff a positive right off the bat. It was big because the fans showed up in droves at Lucas Oil Stadium and will hopefully continue to be interested after watching a win. What it wasn't was a marquee type of win over a power. IU isn't a football program at all, and frankly, the last time these two squads played, BSU dominated. What I take away from the game, aside from us being 1-0 now and shutting up the Hoosier fans who have no sense of reality and their place in the football world was the dominating performance of the offensive and defensive lines. I think most expected a good outing from the oline as they are a veteran group, but to witness the sheer dominance of a Big 10 team in the trenches was impressive. The dline was a concern for most fans, but they handled their business impressively and with authority.
2. For those who haven't seen BSU before, can you give us a small breakdown of what the Cardinals like to do on offense and defense?
Honestly, no one knows. With new coach Pete Lembo, it wasn't really a given what his team would do. At Elon and Lehigh, Lembo ran a very uptempo no huddle passing attack, but against the Hoosiers the Cardinals were very ground attack focused. Whether that was a result of the offensive line and an adjustment based on the game flow or not remains to be seen, but if passing is what he wants, he does have weapons. Sophomore QB Keith Wenning looked calm and collected in the pocket, made great decisions, and has a bevy of receivers with a good mix of experience and speed. Defensively, the Cards were creating chaos for the Hoosiers up front, but again, that may be more of a result of the lack of oline dominance from IU. One defensive player to keep an eye on is Sean Baker
who has an uncanny nose for the football and could be the best safety in the MAC.
3. Who are a couple of players that USF fans should keep an eye on?
Baker, as referenced above, but defensively Nathan Ollie
was a beast against IU. If he can create pressure for the USF offensive attack that leads to errant throws or rushed passes, then Baker and the rest of the secondary could have a big day. Offensively, the rushing attack is by committee, as Barrington Scott
and Jahwan Edwards
were the two rushing leaders against IU. QB Keith Wenning is also mobile, as he went for 61 yards and a TD against the Hoosiers. The receiving corps has a host of talented players like Briggs Orsbon
, Jack Tomlinson
, and Tori Gibson who all present difficult matchups based on their individual skillsets. What works for covering one won't work for covering others, so look for Lembo to try and exploit those weaknesses through formation shifts and routes.
4. What do you think about Pete Lembo? Do you think he will be able to bring BSU back to the top of the MAC?
The funny thing about the MAC is that when you have a team dominated by seniors that have played for years, they do well. Back in 2008 when BSU was 12-0, that was the case. The MAC teams don't have the depth to sustain excellence for multiple years, so when those experienced players leave, you have inexperience and youth to replace and the results suffer. For Lembo, it's an odd mixture of experience and youth, as well as good results so far from transfers and recruiting. The cynic in me says that no team, no matter who they are can win consistently for more than a couple years, the coaches know that, and they jump when the time is right (Turner Gill, Brady Hoke, Jerry Kill, etc.). But with the way Lembo has connected to fans and recruits and his first result, perhaps he's the exception to the rule.
5. Predictions for Saturday?
While I would love to sit here and feel confident about a victory, there are some things that give me pause. First and foremost, it's the first true road game for the team. It's also against a far better opponent than we just beat by only 7 on a neutral field. There's also the potential letdown after a large win in front of a great crowd and the team getting lauded all week on campus. Having said that, I watched USF on Saturday and despite the final score, they are certainly beatable. I think if both teams play mistake-free, then it's probably a 10 to 14 point win for USF. However, if USF makes mistakes and BSU is able to capitalize, then it could very well be a Cardinal victory. I'll go with a small hybrid of the two, and USF escapes with a 31-28 victory in a hard fought game decided by a late field goal or a special teams highlight.
Thanks again to the guys at OtP for helping out. Make sure to head on over to see my answers to his questions later on this week.