Ball State carrying momentum into offseason
Although they dropped their first three of six games – losses to Clemson, Kent State and Northern Illinois – the Cardinals were able to reel off six straight wins heading into the postseason.
This secured their first nine-win season since 2008 and third bowl berth in 15 years.
“We stayed the course and never veered from our plan,” said coach Pete Lembo, who is entering his third season with the team. “There was no sense of panic and no lack of confidence in our guys. …we focus on what we can control – the results take care of themselves.”
Despite the early losses, Ball State was able to beat two BCS schools (Indiana and South Florida), marking the team’s third over such opponents over the last two years.
Not only did the Cardinals stay competitive against some quality teams, but they were able to beat them, too: Wins over Central Michigan, Toledo and Ohio allowed them to stay relevant in the West all year.
This includes four critical victories on the road during their six-game winning streak.
“We all know how difficult it is to win meaningful games on the road in November, when things are at stake,” said Lembo. “We were able to do that. We try to be highly organized, structured, and get into a routine so it becomes who we are.”
Ball State returns a good amount of players to the field for 2013, including every single starting skill position. Although it will have to move on from some strong offensive linemen and linebackers, the Cardinals look like they should compete for a MAC title once again.
Quarterback Keith Wenning, running backs Jahwan Edwards and Horatcio Banks, and top recievers Willie Snead and Jamill Smith are all back to light up the scoreboard just as they did in 2012, when they averaged 457.2 yards per game (27th in NCAA) and 33.6 points (33rd).
But Lembo knows there is still much work to do this offseason, and he’s ready to take it day-by-day.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” Lembo said of the upcoming season. “If the young linemen come together and the skill guys remain humble and hard-working, then hopefully we can find some success.
“Right now we have to improve off the field, improve in the offseason, develop a lot of younger players that will have to play key roles, and figure out who we are.”
Ball State will have plenty of younger players to work with and develop over the next several months. It currently has 18 commits from prospects for the class of 2013, and ranks third in the conference overall – above Northern Illinois, Kent State and Ohio.
That number should continue to grow, with targets such as Wesley Bullock (APB), Martell Clark (WR), and Jeremy Tyler (S) still in the mix, among others.
“According to the experts, we have the best class that Ball State has ever had,” said Lembo. “We have a lot of work left to do before signing day, but I feel good about the young men ready to become a part of the Ball State family.”
National Signing Day is February 6.
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