July 24, 2008

Flashes open MAC against explosive Cardinals

[tm]Kent State[/tm]
Kent State at Ball State

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Time Noon

Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, Ind.

Radio/TV: WNIR 100.1 FM

Ball State
Ball State leads the series
18-5. The last time Kent State played the Cardinals was 2006, in
a 30-6 loss in the last game of the season at Dix Stadium. The
last time Kent State traveled to Muncie was in 2001, where the
Flashes won 31-18. The 2001 season is the most recent winning season
for the program.

Ball State coach Brady Hoke should have high expectations
for this team. The Cardinals grew like ivy in Hoke's fifth season,
and it's second under star quarterback Nate Davis and
standout offensive player Dante Love.

Junior Nate Davis passed for a school-record 3,667 yards
last season.

How good was the Ball State offense in 2007? Davis threw for
a school record 3,667 yards, had 30 touchdown passes compared
to just six interceptions and averaged a Mid-American Conference
282.1 yards a game. The only thing more impressive was Love.
The rising senior had a MAC record 2,690 all-purpose yards, along
100 catches for 1,398 yards and 10 touchdown catches. Simply
put, no team in the MAC has a combination quite like Davis and

The Cardinals won seven games, which is the most in more than
a decade for the program. Not only did Ball State win close
games in 2007, such as 27-23 win over Western Michigan, but nearly
the biggest upset in the MAC, losing to college football royalty
Nebraska, by just one lousy point (41-40). It was all wrapped
up in the team's first bowl trip in 11 years.

The success of the team can't be credited just to Davis and
Love. The Cardinals led the conference with a +17 turnover
which included 19 interceptions. However, Ball State's defense
did struggle
in the offensively loaded 2007 MAC West, and will have to
improve a pass defense that was ranked ninth and a rush defense
was ranked tenth in the conference.

Overall, this is arguably going to be the most anticipated
season in Ball State football history. The only problem
is that the
Cardinals face a difficult schedule that includes MAC East
opponents Miami
and of course Kent State. As far as the non-conference
goes, Ball State faces Navy in week one and will play Indiana in
its third
game. Look for Ball State to seriously contend with back-to-back
MAC champion Central Michigan for the MAC West.


Football can be so easy sometimes, and when a team has a talented
quarterback and a good receiver, it gets even easier. The Cardinals
led the conference in passing in 2007, which makes the second
time in the season Kent State will have faced a conference's
passing champion from last season (the first being Boston College).
BC may have had a better passing game then anyone in 2007, but
they still were not THAT efficient. Ball State was. The six interceptions,
along with the 56.5 completion percentage was the best in the
MAC, and one of the best in nation.

Love is Nate Davis' first option, but not the only
deep threat the Cardinals possess.

The 2008 season shouldn't be much different. Not only is Davis,
who is just a junior, and Love back, but so is Darius Hill.
The senior is tied at 24 for the school's record for touchdown
catches and is an even bigger target when lined-up opposite
of Love. Obviously, the passing game is the first option for

When the Cardinals do run the ball, they have sophomore
running back Frank Edmonds returning. As a freshman,
gained 531 yards on 140 attempts. Although the average comes
out to a little under four yards a carry, the Cleveland St.
Edward product is still developing. The second option is
Cory Sykes.
The freshman that enrolled early from Harvey, Ill., rushed
for 40 yards on eight carries during the spring game, which
him the leading rusher on the day.

For Kent State, it will
be a drastic change from the running minded Ragin' Cajuns
from the week before. Ball State passed 483 times last season,
and that may increase this season. Unlike
Boston College, a passing team that must rebuild, Ball
State is a team that is built.

The first step to attacking the
Ball State offense will be pressure. Judging by the spring,
Kent State may do that
with junior Kevin Hogan and sophomore Monte
Simmons at defensive end. Ball State allowed 26
sacks in 2007, which
may have led to a new offensive guards-center coach in

With nine returning starters on offense, this
could be the best offense Kent State faces all season. And
with all the
buzz Simmons
and Hogan created in spring practice, this is the game
Kent State coach Doug Martin is expecting
them to play
well in.
The secondary will have its hands full all day, but
the pressure will make Brian Lainhart, Danny
Sadler, Rico Murray and the rest of the
secondary breathe
a little


Judging by the numbers, Ball State's defense is vulnerable when
passing and running, but creates tons of turnovers. Last season
the Cardinals had two players with five interceptions, and another
with four. The catch, they're all back in 2008. Seniors B.J.
Hill and Trey Lewis had five, while Alex Knapp
had four interceptions. The leading tackler is also back in the
form of Piqua, Ohio native Bryant Haines. The senior
had 124 tackles last season and is the team leader on defense.

Ball State had a decent scoring defense last season, but with
a +17 turnover margin, that should be expected. Kent State turned
the ball over the second most times in the MAC, which could make
this game a turnover-battle game.

Look for Kent State to hand the ball off to junior Eugene
Jarvis a lot in this game. Not because Jarvis is probably
the best player on offense, but because of ball control. Senior
quarterback Julian Edelman will either be having a tremendous
season and a likely MAC come-back player of the year like season,
or he'll be battling time with Giorgio Morgan. Regardless,
Kent State's best option is to hand the ball off in order to
keep Davis and his aerial show on the sidelines.

Martin has said in the past that time of possession is a stat
that he doesn't care for, but could be helpful in this game.
Jarvis could be effective for many reasons, but a major factor
is that Ball State last saw him in 2006. Since then, Jarvis has
gone bonkers running the ball, and will be looking for revenge.
In 2006, Jarvis rushed for minus yards against Ball State.


Julian Edelman vs. the Ball State secondary match-up is a good
one. Ball State had 19 interceptions in 2007, and Edelman threw
his fair share last season. This is interesting because it will
likely be the game that Edelman shuts up the critics for good,
or places the magnifying glass on his shoulders.

This is the first MAC game. For Kent State, all other games
are tiny compared to conference games. Forget a Boston College
upset, or a Ragin' Cajun boil, the MAC is what these players
and coaches truly care about, and beating a top MAC West team
like Ball State will be a good step. And the quarterback position
is the foot. They either get stepped on, or do the stomping.
Edelman has the experience to play against any MAC secondary,
and his running ability makes him a threat at any point in a

The secondary of Ball State will either allow a pass to be thrown,
or make Edelman run for yardage, so that would make them the
key to his game. The defensive line of Ball State could put pressure
on him physically, but no more pressure then the secondary will
put on his psyche.


Throw out Jarvis, Edelman, Davis and Love. The
best player and possibly best NFL prospect playing in this game
is the punter of Ball State. Chris Miller was the third
leading punter in the country last season and was an American
Football Coaches Association All-America First Team selection
with 45.4 punting average. OK, so why is this a big deal? Their
offense has a solid passer and the defense has more picks then
the AFC Pro-Bowl team, why the punter?

Because for Kent State to win the game, they will need to have
long drives by running the ball. The strength of the offense
is rushing. One player that will change the field on Kent State
is Miller, and may HELP the Flashes in a weird way. However,
if Kent State is constantly put in 1st-and 10 on its own eight
yard line, and is constantly going 92-yards to score- it
will test the team's depth. This only works if the defense is
able to stop the Ball State offense and not allow quick scores.
Whether it works like this or not, field position and ball control
is how the Flashes beat Ball State.


I can't take credit for this, but Ball State may be ranked when
Kent State plays them (Thank you Steve Hare). After facing Navy,
Akron and the Hoosiers to start the season, Ball State could be
undefeated at 3-0, and may have two blowouts to boast, along with
an in state Big Ten victory. This will likely not happen by the
time they play Kent State, but Ball State could be ranked at some
point in the season, and this could be the "ranking" game.

(I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but Ball State
is very similar to Kent State. Hoke has two years on Doug Martin
and look where his team is. If Kent State continues to recruit
well, they could easily be in the same position Ball State is in

Final note: Nate Davis' older brother Jose holds 12 different
Kent State passing records. The 1997 season was one of the finest
performances a Kent State quarterback has ever had in one year.
He passed for 32 touchdowns, 2,707 yards and had a 64.3 completion

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