1st and Ten – The Lynch Mob – The
MAC produces and has produced tremendous quarterbacks over the past
decade, some first round NFL caliber, some that have been incredibly
productive, yet under the radar. Eastern Michigan’s Matt Bohnet was
this type of guy over his last two years under Jeff Genyk. Kent Smith
from Central Michigan was another productive, unknown QB. Well, Ball
State has one, a guy who threw for nearly 2,000 yards, 18 touchdowns and
only 7 picks in 2005; remember the name Joey Lynch. Similar to the
aforementioned graduated quarterbacks, Lynch hasn’t had the opportunity
to make plays on a championship team, which is why not many people know
his name. But, under Lynch, the Cardinals started to turn it around,
winning three of their last four games to finish the 2005 season. He
may not be as physically talented as former Akron Zip Charlie Frye, but
he has a lot of the same intangible characteristics. He’s tough, gutty
and has a solid football IQ and with five returning linemen in front of
him, he could put up some even better numbers in 2006. The pressure of
this program falls squarely on Lynch’s broad shoulders, but head coach
Brady Hoke would want no one else to take the heat in the kitchen. As a
matter of speaking, of course.
2nd and Seven – Line of Distinction –
It’s not a pretty number. 43. No, that’s not the number of hot
dogs Kobayashi eats in 12 minutes (that’s more like 49 or so). It’s the
number of sacks the offensive line gave up last season. Ouch. Now,
let’s keep that in perspective – Ball State’s non-conference opponents
were Iowa, Boston College and Auburn. Regardless, all five linemen
return to the lineup, albeit under new leadership – new OL coach John
Powers. This Cardinal line must keep Lynch upright and in the pocket.
If they can count on a consistent lineup (they had the same five
starters at the same position in only four games), then they can find a
synergy they’ve lacked for a while. That puts a tremendous amount of
pressure on Powers to keep Ramsey, Schneider, Gerberry, Brown and
Brewster on the field and defenders off of Lynch’s back.
3rd and Three – Tough to Follow –
When Justin Beriault graduated after the 2004 season, he left a gaping
hole in the secondary. The man tackled everything that moved, averaging
more than 100 tackles per year. Into the fray, though, stepped freshman
Trey Lewis. The lanky free safety took over for the former All-MAC star
and finished the year as an honorable mention freshman All-American.
Although he didn’t reach 100 tackles as Beriault did (four times,
actually), he did finish the season with 74 stops, third on the team.
Lewis added 3 interceptions to lead the Cardinals, as well. The
Cardinals’ secondary has a long way to go to improve on last season, but
Lewis’s presence will definitely help.
4th and One – The Foundation –
How do you even begin to describe the 2005 Ball State season? They got
plastered by Iowa, Boston College and Auburn by a combined 157 to 3.
They won a 60-57 game - more points than Memphis and UCLA scored in the
Oakland regional final. They, then, when on to win 3 of their last four
games. They beat the two participants in the MAC championship game –
Akron and Northern Illinois. Wow, that roller coaster ride was pretty
intense. But, the way the Cardinals finished the season, with those
three wins – was that the Foundation for Hoke’s 2006 team? Can they
build off of those wins and become a factor in the MAC this fall?
Behind Lynch and Hoke’s leadership, they’ve got a shot.