#94 Ball State Football 2012 Preview

Ball State Cardinals
Overall Rank: # 94
# 6 Mid-American Conference

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Ball State was a much improved team a year ago under the guidance of newly hired head coach, Pete Lembo. They finished with an average 6 - 6 record, but managed to go 4-3 in conference play. Ball State knows winning its conference is the key to success so they will look to build on their winning conference record from a season ago. This is a young team so there will be some rough patches, but they should be an improved team this season if their key players progress as expected.

2011 Record: (6-6, 4-3)
2011 Bowl: None
Coach: Pete Lembo
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Skrosky
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bateman

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jahwan Edwards, RB, 811 yards
Passing: Keith Wenning, QB, 2,786 yards
Receiving: Jack Tomlinson, WR, 394 yards
Tackles: Travis Freeman, LB, 134
Sacks: Nathan Ollie, DT, 6
Interceptions: Travis Freeman, LB, 1; Jeffery Garrett, CB, 1; Jason Pinkston, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: WR Jamill Smith, RB Scott Barrington, P Scott Kovanda

Key Losses: WR Keith Wenning, WR Kelly Page, CB Joshua Howard

Ball State proved a season ago that they were returning to the basics of football and that included improving their special team play and protecting the quarterback. The Cardinals ranked an impressive 17th in the nation in net punting. Their ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory and to win the field position game helped out their struggling defense. They also provided a spark on punt returns, ranking 28th in the nation, which helped set up their offense with favorable field position. The Cardinals also had a solid aerial assault, ranking 53rd in the nation in passing yards per game. The more impressive stat, however, is they allowed less than one sack per contest, ranking 11th in the nation. This should continue to be a team strength despite the fact they have to replace their top two tacklers.  They do have a young signal caller in Keith Wenning who should only improve. Their running game did struggle a year ago, but they were led by a talented freshman in Jahwan Edwards, so if he avoids a sophomore slump, this offense could be dangerous this season.

Despite having a fairly productive offense Ball State could not score enough points. This is because their defense was abused on a weekly basis. Their scoring defense ranked 12th in their conference and 103rd nationally. They were unable to defend the run or the pass and were constantly at the mercy of opposing offenses. The defense was also not able to make explosive plays, ranking 100th in the nation in sacks and 106th in tackles for a loss. Offensive players loved to face the Cardinal defense as they allowed a whooping 510.33 yards per game, dead last in the conference and 119th in the nation. This defense is the clear weakness of the team and needs to be improved. They were unable to stop the run, finishing last in the conference, which opened up the passing game, compounding their troubles. On the bright side, the defense really cannot get any worse, so it should be an improved side of the ball. However, it still is a weak defense and is the Achilles Heel of this team.

The Bottom Line:
Ball State was an improved team this season and there is no reason to believe they will not be improved again. However, despite the improvement, they will still struggle unless their defense has a dramatic turnaround. The development of Keith Wenning and Jahwan Edwards will be vital to the success of this offense, which will shoulder a lot of pressure as the defense will still give up a lot of points per game. The Cardinals should finish with a slightly better record and end up in the middle of their conference. This is definitely a team that can sneak up on opponents if they are not careful and prepared.

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 138.42 (77th in the nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 241.00 (53,8)
Total Offense: 379.42 (68, 8)
Scoring Offense: 25.33 (72, 7)
Rushing Defense: 226.00 (113, 13)
Pass Defense: 284.33 (115, 13)
Total Defense: 510.33 (119, 13)
Scoring Defense: 34.67 (103, 12)
Turnover Margin: -.08 (67, 6)
Sacks: 1.33 (T100, 10)
Sacks Allowed: .92 (11,3)