The Indiana Hoosiers now find themselves in familiar water as they boast a 2-0 record for the eighth time in the last nine seasons. The Hoosiers cruised in their 45-6 win over the UMass Minutemen, but as they come back home to Memorial Stadium, they’ll be forced to deal with longtime in-state rival Ball State.
The Opponent: Ball State Cardinals
Playing in the Mid-American Conference, the Ball State Cardinals have constantly found themselves out of the spotlight. However, it’s hard to forget that no more than four years ago, the Cardinals had one of the more prominent teams in the country, achieving a rank as high as twelfth in the nation. Since then it’s gone downhill, but this season has the potential to formulate a different path. Keith Wenning – the 2010 John Hodge Award winner (given to Ball State’s most valuable freshman) – is now a junior starting quarterback and is joined in the backfield by Jahwan Edwards – a sophomore running back and the 2011 winner of the same award. With those two in the backfield, the Cardinal coaching staff believes they possess the necessary tools for turning around a team.
Coach Pete Lembo is beginning his second season at Ball State. Although not heavily involved in the recruitment of the two previously named players, he’s made the most of their talents since coming to BSU. Lembo, who resigned as head coach at Elon to come to Muncie, has proven in the past to be a proficient offensive mind. His offense at Elon averaged over 400 yards per game for four straight years and Ball State has matched those numbers to this point in the season, averaging 488 yards per game through the first two week of the season.
The Cardinals’ rushing attack has silenced the critics, putting up excellent numbers – 329 yards and 252 yards, respectively – against Eastern Michigan and Clemson. Jahwan Edwards deserves a large part of the credit as the 5’10, 225 pound running back has been explosive this season, piling up an impressive 254 yards. While on the phone earlier this week with an anonymous lineman for the Hoosiers, he told me Edwards is “a very talented player who is tough to bring down.” He noted that stopping the ground game was a main focus of the team’s preparation for Ball State. The run/pass ratio for the Cardinals reads 95:42 for the first two games of the season, so Indiana can be prepared to see the 8th ranked rushing attack in the nation carry a full workload on Saturday.
Ball State will be fired up on Saturday, fresh off a brutal 52-27 loss to the Clemson Tigers. Ball State’s defense had its share of difficulties – giving up three touchdown passes to just one wide receiver and to allowing three rushing touchdowns, including one by the third-string running back. On the bright side, this game showcased major improvement for Lembo’s team. Last time they played an opponent as big as Clemson was last year against the University of Oklahoma, when the Cardinals suffered a 62-6 loss.
X-Factor: Cardinals’ Secondary
When deciding the x-factor, the first thing that comes to mind is what/who will make the difference in the game? What/who needs to be at its best in order for his/their team to win the game? We know the rushing attack will be more than present come Saturday thanks to both Edwards and freshman Horactio Banks, who ran over Clemson’s defense for an astounding 120 yards and two touchdowns.
What I question more is whether the Cardinals’ secondary will be present and make an impact against the Hoosiers. Well – they need to be present in order to win. I single out the secondary because Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd missed only four passes last week against Ball State, and because the Clemson Tigers passed for 372 yards against this secondary, but it’s also important to consider the big change for the Hoosiers. With the injury to Robinson, Cam Coffman takes over as quarterback (more on this later in the article). Coffman offers more of a standard, passing offense, one that will certainly test the defensive backfield. The secondary will have to stop the likes of Kofi Hughes and Shane Wynn, along with Cody Latimer and Ted Bolster – not an easy task. It’s imperative for the secondary to minimize the mental errors which were explicitly visible in last week’s game if the Ball State Cardinals hope to leave Memorial Stadium with a win.
Ball State Statistics (2012):
Total Offense: 488 yards per game
Scoring Offense: 32 points per game
Total Defense: 446 yards per game
Scoring Defense: 39 points per game
Ball State Individual Leaders (2012):
Passing: Keith Wenning- 197.5 yards per game, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jahwan Edwards- 31 rush, 254 yards, 3 TDs
Horactio Banks- 21 rushes, 183 yards, 3 TDs
Receiving: Jamill Smith- 8 receptions, 119 yards, 0 Tds
Connor Ryan- 11 receptions, 79 yards, 0 TDs
Willie Snead- 10 receptions, 101 yards, 0 TDs
The Hoosiers have so far failed to disappoint, solidifying their impressive start with a dominating 45-6 win over the UMass Minutemen. Indiana’s 11 tackles for a loss in the game were the most since Nov. 1, 2008 against Central Michigan. The Hoosiers totaled 606 yards of offense in their victory over UMass, marking the first time an IU team has surpassed 600 yards since Oct. 6, 2001 at Wisconsin (631 yards). As great as that stat is, it’s impossible to forget about the big hit the passing game took last Saturday. Tre Roberson suffered a season ending injury, breaking his leg in three different places, according to reports. Cam Coffman – a sophomore from Peculiar, Missouri – took over the offense and didn’t miss a beat, going 16-22 with 159 yards and a touchdown.
The Hoosiers now turn their eyes to in-state rival Ball State. Indiana has had success against Mid-American Conference opponents, racking up thirty-six wins while only suffering seven losses, four of those wins and two of the losses coming against Saturday’s opponent. In fact, since the start of the 2004 season, the Hoosiers are 23-9 (.719) in regular season non-conference games.
Ball State will look to defy the odds come Saturday. In order to do that, they’ll have to put much emphasis into stopping the Hoosiers offense that has averaged 34.5 points per game and 251 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ defense certainly has their share of struggles – averaging 446 yards and 39 points given up per game (a figure that ranks 109th in the nation).
However, the most impressive stats come with the unselfish play the Hoosiers have shown on both sides of the ball. Fourteen Hoosiers have caught a pass, nine have recorded a rush, fourteen have at least a half-tackle for a loss and seven have at least a half-sack this season. Indiana also currently leads the B1G in sacks, but who’s asking? This distribution definitely indicates a tough game could lie ahead for the Cardinals, as they’ll have to be aware of any player wearing the cream and crimson on the football field.
X-Factor: Cameron Coffman
If I wrote that I thought long and hard about this, I’d be a liar. Coffman will start his first game as a Hoosier this Saturday as the team looks to match its longest win streak in more than a decade. Coffman, who comes from a family with football in its veins (father and one of his brothers played professionally), convinced coach Wilson he deserves the starting job by filling in last game with composure, like he had done it before. As a matter of fact – he has done it before. Last season, Coffman led Arizona Western to the National Junior College Athletic Association national title game.
The Hoosiers have an opportunity to truly exploit Ball State’s struggling secondary, which has surrendered 279 yards per game and 7 touchdowns. Indiana has the necessary deep threats to capitalize, and it’ll come down to whether Coffman can continue to hold his composure under the lights Saturday night. Coffman offers a quite different look than Roberson did for this team, although the transition from the versatile Roberson to the steady-armed Coffman is expected to occur with ease.
“Tre is a good guy and one of our main players, but we have to rally ‘round Cam,” defensive tackle Larry Black Jr. said to the Washington Post. “The only real difference is just that wiggle. Tre is a lot better runner, but really that’s the only difference between them.”
I expect Coffman to have a good game come Saturday, and I’m truly excited to see how the transition pans out. A successful passing game from Coffman will also open the ground game for guys like D’Angelo Roberts and Tevin Coleman. Ball State’s offense has the firepower to get things going, so it’s vital for the Hoosiers to do the same. Coffman must continue to play with poise on Saturday night and spark the Hoosiers’ offense if they wish to come out on top.
Hoosier Statistics (2012):
Total Offense: 528.5 yards per game
Scoring Offense: 34.5 points per game
Total Defense: 325.5 yards per game
Scoring Defense: 11.5 points per game
Hoosier Individual Leaders (2012):
Passing: Tre Roberson- 33-50, 184 yards per game, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Receiving: Shane Wynn- 11 receptions, 135 yards, 2 TDs
Cody Latimer- 10 receptions, 108 yards, 0 TDs
Rushing: D’Angelo Roberts- 32 rushes, 120 yards, 0 TDs
Tevin Coleman- 21 rushes, 134 yards, 0 TDs
I’ve watched a lot of Ball State film and I like their quick, up-tempo style of offense. Indiana’s defense will need to keep up with them on the field. The Cardinals’ rushing offense is superb – ranked 8th in the nation in rushing yards. However, I have confidence in the Hoosiers’ defense and their refurbished defensive line to keep the damage to a minimum. As I previously said, I expect Cam Coffman to resemble the player he was last year at the junior college level; a poised quarterback who lead his team to a national title game last year, and who rose to the occasion when his number was called.
Prediction: 42-21 Indiana