Fresh off of an upset victory over then-23rd ranked Toledo last week, Ball State laces up the cleats again against one the Mid-American Conference’s top tier teams in Ohio.
The Bobcats, who were once themselves a top 25 team, have slipped a bit, losing 2 of the last 3 contests including a loss a week ago to Bowling Green. But make no mistake, the Bobcats present a formidable challenge for Coach Pete Lembo and the Ball State Cardinals.
The Bobcats are another of the MACs strong offensive units, which sports an equally efficient ground and passing attack. The Bobcats also don’t turn the ball over, with just 5 total on the season.
The passing attack is led by 4th year Jr. Tyler Tettleton, who has thrown for 2,045 yards and 16 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions on the year. Tettleton, who is a superb athlete, also can make noise with his legs and has ran for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tettleton will throw spread the ball around to a group of 7 players with double digits in receptions – the leader of which is Donte Foster. The 6-1 R-Jr. has hauled in 42 passes for 518 yards and 7 TDs. Second on the list is 6-2 Bakari Bussey, who has 30 receptions for 266 yards.
The Bobcats also ground out rushing yards in chunks (208.6 yards per game) and are led by R-Jr. RB Beau Blankenship. The 5-9 202 bowling ball has ran for 1,225 yards (almost 5 yards a carry) and 8 touchdowns and also adds 18 receptions for 170 yards and a receiving touchdown. Blankenship is spelled by true Freshman scat back Daz’mond Patterson, a 5-6 178 blur, who has gobbled up 5.7 yards a rush and racked up 131 yards.
The always tough Ohio defense has allowed just 22.8 points a game and gives up 377.5 total yards per contest. The opportunistic Bobcats have also forced 20 turnovers – 2 a game on average.
The Bobcat defense is led by 6-0 219 R-Jr. MLB Keith Moore who has 80 tackles including 3 ½ for loss and a sack. Moore also has 2 INTs and a fumble recovery on the season.
Ohio doesn’t have one key guy that puts consistent pressure on opposing QB’s, they do it as a unit. 6-3 315 NG Neal Huyhn has the team lead with just 2.5 sacks, but 15 others have posted at least a ½ sack this season and the unit has 20 total on the season.
As mentioned before, the Bobcats cause 2 turnovers a game and Nickel Nate Carpenter has been a big part of that. Not only does the R-So. Have 2 INTs but he also has 2 fuble recoveries and has 44 tackles and a sack on the season.
Ohio is typically strong on special teams despite a few uncharacteristic bumps last week against Bowling Green. The unit is led by R-Jr. PK Matt Weller, who has connected on 18 of 25 FGs and all 40 PATs on the season. Fr. Punter Grant Venham has been solid with 38.8 yards per kick with 20 downed inside the 20 yard line.
On the other side of the ball, the Ball State Cardinals roll out a continuingly improving defense that is coming off what might have been its best half of football last game against Toledo. The Cardinals defensive unit rose to the occasion and held the high-powered Rockets to just 10 points in the second half to help preserve the Cardinals upset victory on the road.
Overall the Cardinals have given up 471.3 yards and 32.7 points a game on the season.
Ball State defense is led by Sr. MLB Travis Freeman, who is tied for 8th in the nation in tackles per game and has 107 total. Adding to the mix is Sr. LB Tony Martin, who has 71 tackles along with a sack, an INT and a 54 yard fumble recovery/return.
The Cardinal secondary has bee led by So. Eric Patterson’s 2 picks, but also solid coverage by Jr. Jeffery Garrett.
R-Jr. Jonathan Newsome, who has 6 sacks on the season, has led the Cardinal pass rush along with Jr. DT Nathan Ollie (3 sacks). Ball State, as a team, has had 14 sacks including two in critical moments last week.
The Ball State offense has been one of the MAC’s best by putting up 33.7 points on 470.5 yards per contest.
The offense is led by Jr. QB Keith Wenning, who has thrown for 2,705 yards and 20 TDs this season while completing almost 65% of his attempts.
Wenning’s favorite targets have been So. WR Willie Snead, who has pulled in 73 receptions (which is tops in the MAC) for 946 yards and 6 touchdowns, and R-Jr. Jamill Smith. The 5-8 138 WR has 64 receptions for 670 yards and 6 touchdowns and is also a top notch special teams performer – with 14.7 yards per punt return and 25.1 yards on kick off returns.
The Cardinals ground game is a three-headed machine led by So Jahwan Edwards. The 5-10 230 RB has carried the ball for 1,054 yards (5.8 per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He is spelled by the duo of powerback Barrington Scott (374 yards and a TD) and the speedy Horatcio Banks (370 yards and 3 TDs in 8 games).
As always, Ball State has a solid special teams unit led by a pair of national award finalists.
Sr. P Scott Kovanda has averaged 41.2 yards per kick and has pined the opponent inside the 20 yard line 22 times this season. Kovanda is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s best punter.
PK Steven Schott, also a Sr., is a Lou Groza Award Semifinalist and has made 22 of 27 field goals and 37 of his 38 PATs.
Prediction: The Cardinals are flying high off of an upset victory and will be squaring off against an Ohio team reeling from a pair of losses in the past 3 games. The Cardinals, at home, will be wearing their black jerseys for the first time in school history and hope for a packed house on national television. Look for the Cardinals to come out with loads of energy and come away with a hard fought victory – Ball State 37, Ohio 28.