Opponent capsules: Ball State Cardinals

A hot coach looks to keep the momentum going with new QB

Ball State coach Pete Lembo has built a steady bowl program at Ball State (Muncie, Ind.). Now, the trick is doing it wit
Ball State coach Pete Lembo has built a steady bowl program at Ball State (Muncie, Ind.). Now, the trick is doing it with a new QB.


The second installment of a series ranking Iowa’s 12 opponents for the 2014 season. Today: No. 11 Ball State.



Conference: Mid-American

2013 record: 10-3 (7-1 MAC West; lost GoDaddy Bowl 23-20 to Arkansas State)

Returning offensive starters (5): G Jalen Schlachter, C Jacob Richard, ST Steven Bell, RB Jahwan Edwards, WR Jordan Williams

Projected starting offense: QT Steve Bell, so., 6-4 290; QG P.J. Scott, sr., 6-2 293; C Jacob Richard, jr., 6-1 275; SG Jalen Schlachter, jr., 6-6 316; ST Drake Miller, so., 6-5 296; TE Sam Brunner, so., 6-2 246 OR Dylan Curry, jr., 6-4 259; QB Ozzie Mann, so., 6-1 205 OR Jack Milas, fr., 6-0 215; HB Jahwan Edwards, sr., 5-10 219; WRX Jordan Williams, jr., 6-2 224; WRZ Chris Shillings, sr., 6-1 206; WRW KeVonn Mabon, jr., 6-1 215

Returning defensive starters (6): DE Nick Miles, WLB Ben Ingle, MLB Zack Ryan, BC Eric Patterson, FS Dae’Shaun Hurley, SS Brian Jones

Projected starting defense: Rush DE Michael Ayers, jr., 6-1 238 OR Osa Igbinosun, jr., 6-1 259; DT Darnell Smith, jr., 5-11 270; NT Carlutorbantu Zaramo, so., 6-4 304; DE Nick Miles, sr., 6-2 250; WLB Ben Ingle, jr., 6-0 230; MLB Zack Ryan, so., 5-10 224 OR Sean Wiggins, so., 6-2 230; SLB/Nickel Aaron Taylor, so., 5-11 206 OR Quintin Cooper, sr., 5-7 187; BC Eric Patterson, sr., 5-10 189; FS Dae’Shaun Hurley, so., 6-0 213; SS Brian Jones, sr., 5-10 202; FC Tyree Holder, so., 5-11 166

Returning specialists (4): P Kyle Schmidt, so., 6-2 223; K Scott Secor, sr., 5-8 158; LS Garrett Mack, sr., 6-3 181; KR Jahwan Edwards, sr., 5-10 219

Key losses: QB Keith Wenning, QT Matthew Page, SG Jordan Hansel, TE Zane Fakes, WR Willie Snead, WR Jamill Smith, RE Jonathan Newsome, DT Nathan Ollie, NT Joel Cox, SLB Kenneth Lee, FC Jeffery Garrett

Key additions: OL Malik King (6-3, 294), DL Kevin Willis (6-3, 274); ATH Matthew Johnson (5-11, 180); DT Bruce Heggie (6-5, 290), CB Quentin Turner (5-10, 180), WR Jordan Hogue (6-1, 175)

2013 review: Ball State (Muncie, Ind.) ended the 2013 season with a 10-3 overall record and an appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl, which it lost to Arkansas State, 23-20. The Cardinals have reached bowl eligibility in each of coach Pete Lembo’s three seasons. The last time the Cardinals won at least six games in three straight seasons came when they reached the mark in four straight campaigns from 1988-91.

Ball State reached the 40-point mark for the seventh time in 2013 when it won its regular-season finale, 55-14, over Miami University, setting the school record for the most games of 40 or more points in school history. The Cardinals scored 50 or more points three times in 2013, which is a Ball State school record.

QB Keith Wenning set the school record with six touchdown passes in the regular season finale vs. Miami University. He accounted for 40 touchdowns in 2013 with 35 TD passes and five rushing scores. Wenning set Ball State career records for touchdown passes (92), passing yards (11,402), pass completions (1,035) and pass attempts (1,642). He was a senior last season and will be difficult to replace.

2014 schedule: A30 Colgate; S6 at Iowa; S13 Indiana State; S20 at Toledo; O4 at Army; O11 Western Michigan; O18 at Central Michigan; O25 Akron; N5 Northern Illinois; N12 at Massachusetts; N22 Eastern Michigan; N28 at Bowling Green

Key Stretch: The Cardinals are looking for some replacements, particularly for record-setting quarterback Keith Wenning. They have two games they need to circle in regard to the MAC West division, at Toledo on Sept. 20 and Northern Illinois in Muncie on Nov. 5. Head coach Pete Lembo maximized Wenning’s talents and has Ball State on a historical run. If Lembo can guide BSU into a division championship and a berth in the MAC title game, where will he coach next season? We’re getting ahead of ourselves. The road to the MAC title game is called Northern Illinois, until another program knocks the Huskies off the top.

Trap game: Akron was awful last season, going 0-8 in the MAC and 1-11 overall. The Zips don’t seem to be much of a challenge for a MAC program that has reached bowl eligibility three straight seasons. But it’s the MAC, where the sands shift more quickly than in the Big Ten and other major conferences. That’s not saying Akron will be anything surprising this season, but the Cardinals face the Zips at home after a road trip to Central Michigan, a bowl team in 2013 and a west division foe and before Northern Illinois. This might be the trappiest of trap games.

Glass half-full: First on Lembo’s list is figuring out quarterback. You’re going to wince when you read this, but Lembo runs a high-octane, up-tempo offense. Sigh, what’s that mean, right? The Cardinals did everything fast (959 plays were No. 36 in the nation last year) and well last season. Wenning was tremendous, but running back Jahwan Edwards rushed for 1,110 yards and 14 TDs. BSU also was much more balanced than you’d think with 509 passes and 450 runs. A perfect start for the Cardinals would be a balanced attack that can depend on Edwards and a running game while the QB (a four-man race that includes Ozzie Mann, Jack Milas, David Morrison and Kyle Kamman). Hand-in-hand with that would be a stout defense. This spring, new defensive coordinator Kevin Kelly unveiled a stripped-down scheme that allowed 1.9 yards per carry and had seven tackles for loss. It all doesn’t have to start at QB for the Cardinals.

Glass half-empty: BSU will need something out of QB. A four-man battle doesn’t bode well. Mann threw nine passes last season and didn’t do much with those. Redshirt freshman Jack Milas is pushing Mann and could be the guy. He’s 6-0, 215 pounds from Arlington Heights, Ill. He had one offer out of high school and it was Ball State. Wenning developed in each of his three seasons as starter under Lembo. The Cardinals are clearly starting over QB.

The Iowa angle: Probably don’t read too much into Iowa’s recent history against the MAC. The recent part is last season’s 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium. The Huskies had Jordan Lynch, a senior QB who ended up third in Heisman Trophy voting. Iowa had Jake Rudock in his first start. This year, Ball State will have a new guy going against an Iowa defense with a veteran front four.

This will be both school’s second game, with BSU opening at home against Colgate and Iowa playing host to Northern Iowa. You can play the “trap game” card for the Hawkeyes. They play host to Iowa State after BSU and then travels to Pittsburgh the next week.

One element that could make this game a contest is Iowa’s running game. If it’s not able to take bites out of the Cardinals there, BSU will gain confidence and give the new QB a margin for error. The Hawkeyes rushed the ball 43 times in last year’s opener vs. NIU (4.7 yards a carry). If it comes to that (it might not, but no guarantees), will Iowa be able to simply muscle BSU?

Quotable: “The quarterback battle is still very much a battle. We’re not overly concerned with rushing to make a decision. Hopefully, they will all continue to get better. We were a little inconsistent in the passing game and that is not all on them. We have a lot of room to get better in a lot of areas.” — BSU head coach Pete Lembo on QB following the Cardinals’ spring game

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