Of all the indignities suffered by the Indiana Hoosiers last season--one win overall, no Big Ten wins or wins over FBS teams--few were as disappointing as losing to Ball State for the second meeting in a row. The Cardinals, playing their home game at neutral Lucas Oil Stadium, seemed like an easy mark, but they controlled the second half and handed IU a tough intrastate loss. Here's what I said at the time:
I was out of town and unable to watch the game live, and ESPN3 won't cooperate, or at least wouldn't until today, and I'm not going to devote a chunk of the workday to this dog. Everything I have read suggests that if I watched the whole thing, I would see IU being pushed around in the trenches, especially on defense, by a middle-of-the-pack MAC team with a new coach and staff of its own. I would see IU's offense score only three points in the second half, and even those came in desperation time. Most disturbingly, I would have seen Ball State, with a 7 point lead early in the fourth quarter, mount an 80-yard drive in which all but 6 yards came on the ground, a drive that culminated in a Cardinal field goal that extended the BSU lead to 10 points. All of the rushing yards were accounted for by players who had never before seen the field in college and by Keith Wenning, a quarterback not known for his running ability. Also, I would have seen Wenning, who completed only 54 percent of his passes last season, complete 23-29 against the Hoosiers. In short, my weekend trip and my fussy computer might have been blessings.
As I mentioned above, Ball State was playing its first-ever game under new coach Pete Lembo, so the transition for IU was part of the issue but not much of an excuse. The progress made by quarterback Keith Wenning in his sophomore year was a big reason for the Cardinals' 6-6 record in Lembo's first season. Wenning improved his completion percentage to 64 percent and threw 19 TDs to 11 interceptions. Running back Jahwan Edwards, who played very well against IU in his first college game, finished the season with 786 yards and 11 of Ball State's 17 rushing TDs. Barrington Scott, who also was effective against IU, added 370 yards and a touchdown. Wenning lost BSU's top two receivers, Briggs Orsbon and Torieal Gibson, to graduation, but the Cardinals do return Jamill Smith and Jack Tomlinson, as well as Willie Snead and Connor Ryan.
On defense, senior linebacker Travis Freeman returns after leading the 2011 Cardinals in tackles and sacks. Linebacker Tony Martin and DT sack leader Nathan Ollie also return. On special teams, PK Steven Schott (15/20 field goals and perfect on extra points) and punter Scott Kovanda both return. WR Jamill Smith saw significant duty as a PR and KR.
Ball State appears to be a program moving in the right direction, with some key parts returning on offense and on defense. Blah Balh blah. I don't care. I want a win. I want a beatdown. Enough of this. I will not accept a loss to Ball State this year. Can't happen. I'm not asking for a bowl game in year two. But let's make discernible progress by whipping Ball State. Anyone disagree?