Game 3: Buffalo at Ball State
When: Saturday, Sep 17, 2011 - 7:00 PM
Where: Scheumann Stadium
Series History: BSU 7 - Buffalo 1
Both UB and Ball state are so far removed from the 2008 MAC championship that the emotions are fading. The Cardinals are on their second coach, the Bulls are on their first. Despite all the struggles in Muncie the Cards were able to roll into Amherst and take away a win last season. That win was not enough to save the job of Stan Parrish who "Voluntarily Resigned"
So ball state turns to Pete Lembo. Given the fact that the Athletics Department let Brady Hoke get away over what amounted to chump change fans were not hopeful that Ball State's leadership would do any better with this hire than Parish.
"Pete Lembo’s record, despite its FCS-ness, was decent. His results were tangible. Quite frankly, he was behind the 8-ball already the second he accepted the job, not because of anything to do with Pete Lembo, but more so because the fans (ourselves included) didn’t believe it was possible for Collins to hire a quality someone." -- Over the Pylon
Lembo has spent the better part of a year connecting with BSU fans and, by all accounts, he has been darn successful in doing so. The one huge advantage that Lembo gets over his predecessor is that the bar for immediate success at BSU is pretty low. Parish, fairly or not, presided over the destruction of a program that was building. Lembo gets to restart that.
His record at the FCS level has been impressive, he is a builder. Lembo was a winner at both Lehigh and Elon. He sustained that success over a decade, spending five years at each school taking them further than most thought they would go. Now he gets to try his hand at Ball State with their first conference game against Buffalo.
Ball State on Offense:
If there is one thing that his prior record indicate it's that Pete Lembo likes to put the ball in the air. Last season Elon was second most proficient at passing the ball among all competition at the Championship Subdivision level and Lembo's quarterback, Scott Riddle, was second in the nation in total passing yards. Lembo's Cards will Likely be an air heavy team. The fact that Rich Skrosky, his Offensive Coordinator from Elon,is on board in Muncie almost makes this a certainty
The Card's, if they follow what went on at Elon, will also be running a high tempo offense. While high Tempo and Passing has become synonymous with certain offenses like the spread or the pistol Lembo and company have declared that their offense will be "adaptable".
The Cards have the talent at QB in Keith Wenning but as a whole they have struggled since the departure of Nate Davis to find an effective signal caller. Last year they threw 18 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions and tallied a mere 1,843 yards. They were among the worst passing team in the nation.
Ball state may try to field an explosive passing team but they are manned for a good ground game. The loss of Eric Williams during the off season curtails their depth in the backfield but they have more where that came from. Williams led all ball carriers for Ball State last season, but he was also a huge returner. What they have left in the backfield is Dave Brown checks in at 5-10, 198-pounds and scat back Cory Sykes 5-7 and 160 pounds.
BSU returns four starters from an already respectable line so whatever Lembo has in mind the line should hold up their end.
Ball State on Defense:
Jay Bateman who tagged along from Elon has a history of defenses that stand up well to the run. The Cards should bring a 4-3 in the box look and have an experienced group of defensive backs who will try to make Bateman's job up front an easy one
The line was young and ineffective last season. They are not quite so young, the line only lost one starter and it returns four other linemen that started at some point. The problem is the player they lost, Robert Eddins, was the one player who was able to get into the backfield on a semi regular basis.
The linebackers are fast but pretty small. Only one of the three likely starters checks in at over two hundred pounds. They swarm well and they are pretty good at getting into the backfield on run plays to the outside.
The one unit to really look out for are the defensive backs. They are ball hawks and they like to hit. Sean Baker and Jason Pinkston are among the best in the conference. They supported a mediocre line last season so any improvement there will only make them better.
Cautious (Toss-up): Buffalo looked terrible against the Cards last season, and that was in the friendly confines of UB Stadium. This year Ball State has a more experienced Quarterback and a Coach who brings a system that fits him very nicely. This game is, I think, the pivot for our season. BSU is on par with teams like EMU, Akron, and maybe even Bowling Green would make five wins attainable. A loss, especially a bad loss, might mean another season where we are lucky to get two wins.
The Bulls Can Win if:
The UB Secondary is good enough to neutralize Wenning. By this point in the season the Bulls offense should be able to make some headway against BSU, especially on the ground, but if this is a shootout UB many not have the stopping power to keep up.