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CFN Take: Ball State & Wenning Rock MU
Posted Nov 29, 2013

Ball State Cardinals 2013 Season ... Head Coach: Pete Lembo

Ball State Cardinals

2013 Record: 10-2
8/29 Illinois St W 51-28
9/7 Army W 40-14
9/14 at North Texas L 34-27
9/21 at Eastern Mich W 51-20
9/28 Toledo W 31-27
10/5 at Virginia W 48-27
10/12 Kent State W 27-24
10/19 at Western Mich W 38-17
10/26 at Akron W 42-24
11/6 Central Mich W 44-24
11/13 at NoNIU L 48-27
11/20 Miami Univ. W 55-14
at Ball State 55, Miami University 14
Basically … Keith Wenning threw six touchdown passes overall with three to Jamil Smith from ten, ten and six yards out, and highlighted by a 72-yarder to Jordan Williams on the way to a 35-0 halftime lead. MU came up with a 58-yard Dawan Scott touchdown pass and a three-yard Austin Gearing score, but the Cardinals kept on rolling with a 75-yard touchdown catch from Williams.
- Ball State WR Jamil Smith caught seven passes for 127 yards and three scores. Jordan Williams caught five passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and Willie Snead caught 11 passes for 133 yards and a score.
- Miami QB Drew Kummer completed 4-of-13 passes for 93 yards with a score.
- Miami turned the ball over three times and was outgained 585 yards to 281
- Ball State QB Keith Wenning completed 27-of-33 passes for 445 yards and six scores.

at Northern Illinois 48, Ball State 27
Basically … Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois took control of the MAC West with a run of 21 unanswered points to break open a tight game. The two teams went back and forth with Ball State’s Keith Wenning running for a score and throwing a three-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead, and Jahwan Edwards and Cameron Stingily each ran for short scores. But Lynch always had an answer with two touchdown runs and two scoring passes to Da’Ron Brown from 58 and 36 yards away, with the second one breaking the game open. Lynch’s 16-yard touchdown run gave the Huskies some breathing room, and Joe Windor put it out of reach with a pick six in the final minute.
- NIU QB Jordan Lynch completed 26-of-32 passes for 345 yards and two scores, and he ran 20 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
- Ball State QB Keith Wenning completed 35-of-49 passes for 324 yards and a score with a pick.
- Ball State RB Jahwan Edwards ran 29 times for 154 yards and a score, and Willie Snead caught 12 passes for 121 yards and a score.
- NIU WR Tommylee Lewis made 12 catches for 71 yards, and Da’Ron Brown caught eight passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

at Ball State 44, Central Michigan 24
Basically … Ball State cruised after scoring the first 21 points on three of Keith Wenning’s four touchdown passes including a 13-yarder to Willie Snead, who also caught one-yard touchdown pass in the third. Down 41-10, Central Michigan got a 26-yard touchdown run from Cooper Rush in the fourth and a 22-yard Titus Davis scoring grab.
- Ball State QB Keith Wenning completed 20-of-29 passes for 299 yards and four scores.
- Central Michigan WR Titus Davis caught nine passes for 187 yards and a score.
- Central Michigan turned it over three times, and Ball State didn’t give the ball away.
- Ball State WR Willie Snead caught nine passes for 118 yards and two scores.

at Ball State 27, Kent State 24
Basically … Ball State got a seven-yard Willie Snead touchdown catch with just over a minute to play on the way to a three point lead, and the defense held as Kent State’s final drive stalled. Snead caught two of Keith Wenning’s four touchdown passes, but the Golden Flashes took the lead with ten fourth quarter points with Chris Humphrey catching a 28-yard touchdown pass and Brad Miller hitting a 21-yard field goal.
- It was a bit of a sluggish day from an explosive Ball Stat team, and the three turnovers were a problem, but Keith Wenning managed to go for 305 yards and four touchdowns with two picks. Willie Snead continues to put up massive numbers in a terrific season, catching ten passes for 152 yards and two scores including the game winner, but it took a big comeback late mainly because the defense couldn’t get off the field. Is should be smooth sailing now to 9-1 before facing Northern Illinois, but the defense has to be a bit tighter.
- Kent State played well enough to come up with a season changing win, but the defense couldn’t hang on. Colin Reardon was terrific, completing 19-of-24 passes for 166 yards and two scores with a pick, and it helped the Golden Flashes control the ball for almost 37 minutes. It wasn’t enough. Ball State bottled up Dri Archer, but the running game worked and controlled the game. The D just didn’t hold up its end of the bargain late.

Ball State 48, at Virginia 27
Basically … Down 17-7 after Virginia got touchdown runs from Kevin Parks and David Watford, Ball State caught fire, taking advantage of mistake after mistake to 17 straight points and a 41-10 run to close things out. Jahwan Edwards ran for three scores for the Cardinals and Keith Wenning connected on scoring passes from 11 yards to Willie Snead and 72 yards to Jordan Williams. Virginia couldn’t get out of its own way, and stumbled late after pulling within seen with just under 11 minutes to play on a 38-yard Alec Vozenilek field goal. The Cardinals scored the final 14 points.
- Errors, errors, errors. Virginia turned it over four times, Ball State didn’t give the ball up. Virginia committed 13 penalties, Ball State was flagged once. The Cardinals outplayed the Cavaliers, but the mistakes turned out to be the big difference.
- Keith Wenning was poised and smart with the football. He had the proper mix of risk taking and check downs, throwing for 346 yards and two scores on the way to being Ball State’s all-time leading passer.
- Virginia tried to push the ball down the field a bit more. David Watford completed 21-of-36 passes for 209 yards with a pick, and while there weren’t many big connections, at least the offense tried to open things up a bit.
- This was a very, very big win for a Ball State program that’s quickly growing into a MAC power under Pete Lembo. The North Texas loss is still puzzling, but if the Cardinals play up to their potential, they should be 9-1 with ease going into Northern Illinois. With Miami to finish up, at worst, 10-2 has to be expected.

Ball State 51, at Eastern Michigan 20
Basically … Eastern Michigan scored first on a seven-yard Darius Jackson run, but then it was all Ball State with 27 first quarter point on two Jordan Williams touchdown catches, a 43-yard dash from Horactio Banks, and the first of three scoring runs from Jahwan Edwards. EMU added a few scores, highlighted by a 24-yard Dustin Creel catch, but Edwards put the game way on scoring runs from ten and three yards out.
- The Ball State offense is a machine, especially against struggling defenses. It took a few minutes, but the Cardinals did whatever they wanted with good balance at times and a sharp game from QB Keith Wenning. He completed 17-of-28 throws for 317 yards and two scores.
- EMU got a few nice performances, but the defense simply couldn’t come up with a key stop. The Eagles were outgunned, but Tyler Benz wasn’t awful, completing 20-of-32 passes for 212 yards and a score with two picks.
- The Cardinals did a nice job of spreading around the rushing wealth. The passing game made things go, with Willie Snead leading the way with nine catches for 175 yards, but Jahwan Edwards led a nice day from the BSU backs.
- The Eagles can’t make it easy. They committed nine penalties and turned it over four times, killing any chance to get back into the game time and again.

at North Texas 34, Ball State 27, Sept. 14
Basically … Derek Thompson ran for a 26-yard touchdown and Zach Paul hit three field goals as North Texas rallied back from a 20-3 first quarter deficit to outscore Ball State 31-7 the rest of the way. The Cardinals got up early on the first of two Keith Wenning touchdown passes to Willie Snead, and were helped by a 77-yard touchdown run from Horactio Banks, but the offense was shut out in the second half.
- Sort of quietly, North Texas is looking really, really strong. The defense needed a quarter to wake up, but it did a terrific job of taking the ball away and squashing Ball State drive after Ball State drive. The Mean Green defense might have bent, but it came up with five takeaways.
- The turnovers killed the Cardinals, especially in the second half. Keith Wenning threw for 333 yards and two scores, but he also gave up two picks. The offense worked, but the mistakes cost the team the game.
- UNT seems to have a nice balance on offense, and it’s doing a good job of mixing up the running game. Derek Thompson can’t be a main runner – he’s too valuable throwing the ball – but he’s dangerous whenever he takes off.
- The Cardinals have to blow off this loss in a hurry. It was a bad game from a defense that played well the week before against Army, but the offense shouldn’t have a problem against Eastern Michigan next week. With a win over the Eagles, and then Toledo, all will be fine and this won’t matter. However, this could eventually sting in terms of at-large bowl bids.

at Ball State 40, Army 14, Sept. 7
Basically … Keith Wenning threw two touchdown passes and Scott Secor connected on four field goals on the way to a blowout win for Ball State. Army started out the scoring with a 71-yard Larry Dixon run in the first minute, but the offense wouldn’t get back on the board until late in the third on a nine-yard Dixon run. By that time, the Cardinals were up 37-7 before the score and the game was well out of reach.
- Army ran for 363 yards, but two fumbles and a pick were costly. The ground attack was able to control the ball and the clock, but it couldn’t keep up the pace after the defense started getting picked apart.
- Keith Wenning has been on fire to start the season. He didn’t make any big mistake completing 23-of-32 passes for 325 yards and two scores, while his targets Jamill Smith and Willie Snead each caught five passes.
- The Cardinal defense gave up the really big play early for a score, and Raymond Maples cranked out seven yards per crack, but Army struggled at quarterback. Angel Santiago completed just 3-of-11 passes for 49 yards with a pick. And A.J. Schnurr tried to get the passing game moving, but it wasn’t enough.
- Army can’t keep making mistakes. The three turnovers were bad, but the eight penalties were a problem. The lack of a steady pass rush on Keith Wenning became a killer – the Knight defense never came up with a key stop.

at Ball State 51, Illinois State 28, Aug. 29
Basically … Keith Wenning was unstoppable, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns and running for two short scores, as Ball State roared overcame a 21-9 first half deficit with 42 straight points, capped off by short scoring runs from Horactio Banks and Jahwan Edwards. Willie Snead caught two touchdown passes.
- Apparently, there aren’t any problems with Keith Wenning’s health. He was sharp after the first quarter, and the Cardinals rolled against a very, very good FCS team. Illinois State is better than the final score.
- While Wenning spread the ball around, Snead was the main man with 164 yards and two scores on nine catches. This is how the Cardinal offense is supposed to work, but a little more rushing pop would be nice.

Spring Analysis

Why To Be Excited ... The Cardinals were able to find ways to win with a defense that struggled mightily against the run and didn’t get into the backfield nearly often enough. With eight starters coming back, the D should be more efficient and more effective. Offensively, Jawhan Edwards is one of the MAC’s best backs, but the attack should thrive mostly through the air with quarterback Keith Wenning and all the top targets returning including speedy Willie Snead on the outside and tight end Zane Fakes. Three starters return to a defense that should be better with more help from the defensive front.

Why To Be Grouchy ... There’s plenty of talent returning, but the few losses are massive, starting with linebackers Travis Freeman and Tony Martin, the team’s two top tacklers. Losing backup Justin Cruz won’t help the cause in the 4-2-5 alignment, while strong safety Jarrett Swaby has to be replaced. For a team that won several close games, losing kicker Steven Schott, who finished second in the nation in field goals, and punter Scott Kovanda will be a big problem.

What Needs Working On ... Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. The offense will be terrific and should be among the best in the MAC, but the games were way too tight last season because the defense struggled to come up with regular stops. It’ll all starts up front for a run defense that was entirely too soft and needs to find pass rushers and playmakers after averaging a pathetic four tackles for loss per game. The ends, Nick Miles, Jonathan Newsome and Michael Ayers, have to step up their respective games and they have to be far more aggressive. This is one of the MAC’s key teams in the title chase, but it needs to be more complete.

Non-Conference Games: Illinois State, Army, at North Texas, at Virginia
Games Against The East: at Akron, Kent State, Miami University
Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3
Worst Case Record: 6-6
Likely Finish: 8-4

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Illinois State, Army, at North Texas, at Eastern Michigan, Kent State, at Akron, Central Michigan, Miami Univ.

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: Toledo, at Virginia, at Western Michigan, at Northern Illinois

Schedule Analysis: With Illinois State, Army and a trip to North Texas to start the season, there’s a good shot at a nice 3-0 start before getting into MAC play and a date at Eastern Michigan. Eventually, the schedule has to even out with tougher games, and it starts with a home game with Toledo before a trip to Virginia kicks off a run of three road games in four weeks. The date at Northern Illinois makes it four road games in six dates, but there’s two weeks off to prepare for the finale against Miami University.

Team Concerns For 2013: The Cardinals need to get more out of the defensive line. They've been able to get by with a great offense and solid special teams, but the D hasn't been pulling its weight, especially up front. The front four isn't making enough stops behind the line, and the pass rush hasn't been effective enough to help a secondary that gives up yards in bunches. The run defense has suffered, too, giving up 208 yards per game.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. The Cardinals are getting a few nice linebackers in Anthony Winbush out of Indianapolis and JUCO transfer Stephan Martin, and the offensive line has the talent. Massive tackle prospect Haris Vrabac is the star of the bunch, but JUCO transfer P.J. Scott could push for a starting job right away and guard Vinnie Palazeti will eventually be a key part of the puzzle. Quarterback Jack Milas is an interesting get to develop for a 2016.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 93. That Class Was Heavy On ... Here come the defensive linemen. Past coaching staffs worked on several areas, and it started to pay off last year with a strong 6-6 season, but the defensive line needs more help in a hurry. It’s asking too much for the defensive tackles being brought in to play right away, but they need to bulk up the depth soon. The offensive line is getting a nice class of options for the interior. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 115. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receivers. New head man Pete Lembo inherits a team with plenty of promising defenders, and while he isn’t ignoring the defensive side, especially at outside linebacker, the team is cranking up the passing game with several new targets. The best of the lot might be 5-11, 175-pound Willie Snead, but the rest of the class, like the 6-1, Chris Shillings, the 6-5 Trey Gardner, and the 6-3 Jacolby Owens, is literally big.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 95. That Class Was Heavy On ...
The secondary. This was a nice class considering the disastrous freefall of last season. There wasn't a need for a lot of young skill players, so the class focused on defense and mostly the defensive backs with four nice corner prospects signed led by Jeffery Garrett, who should probably have taken a longer look at a bigger name school, and the speedy Quintin Cooper. Brian Jones should grow into a good nickel or free safety.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 93. That Class Was Heavy On ... Skill players and linebackers. The defense got three interesting linebackers for the inside, led by Jacob Green, while the outside was addressed with a few players. It’s strength in numbers time for the offense with several running backs and receivers to go along with QB Aaron Mershman. RB Eric Williams is the best prospect of the bunch.

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