Ball State-Army Preview: With Apologies To Keith Wenning

We learned a few things about the boys from Muncie in Saturday's 28-25 victory against Buffalo:

  1. The defensive secondary is in shambles when Jason Pinkston is hurt. He is listed as questionable for Saturday.
  2. Ball State may have found the answer at running back in true freshman Jahwan Edwards. Will he be Adell Givens or Marcus Merriweather? I'm hoping for 2008 MiQuale Lewis.
  3. It's only the third time in 16 seasons Ball State has started 2-1.
  4. Duh! Wenning! (Trademarked by every Ball State football fan on Twitter).

That was quite a last drive from young Mr. Wenning, who converted a pair of fourth-down plays and then proceeded to throw the game-winning touchdown to true frosh Willie Snead. At each point of these key plays, I was convinced Ball State was done. And each time, Wenning delivered. I don't think we're going to see Kelly Page at all this season, unless Wenning gets hurt (sorry for mentioning it!).

Wenning has not thrown an interception after tossing 14 of them last season. Football Outsiders would likely say he'll come crashing back to Earth at some point, but let's hope that doesn't turn out to be the case.

After the IU game, I vowed to write an apology letter for throwing him under the shuttle bus in the preseason preview. He played really well in the IU game, but then I was glad I didn't finish it after the South Florida game. Here's the draft I wrote the day after the IU game- and yes, it is in the form of a love letter in which I aspire to reconcile with our quarterback. I am weird.

Dear Keith,

There were a few things that happened during our first year together that left me confused and frustrated. The Ball State coaching staff loved your ability to both run and throw the ball when they recruited you. When you weren't redshirted last year as a true freshman, there was no surprise that you'd see some playing time. When you started the final 10 games, the results were mixed.

Our relationship was a little rocky.  There were some signs of good times, but there were also a lot of bad ones. I didn't know how to react to those. I know, I know, I know, you were only a true freshman last year. It was in the back of my mind, but even most freshmen show enough flashes of potential to show why they're starting in the first place.

Even the new coaching staff wasn't confident enough to name you the full-time starter until about halfway through fall practice. But you earned the spot.

I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

And that's it. I never finished it. Maybe it's for the best. But it certainly would've been GLOWING and full of praise. It's weird seeing an incomplete draft of something. I assume this is how the first half of The Notebook looked (Note: I've never read nor watched this Nicholas Sparks phenomenon).

And this letter is similar to where Ball State is at this point: incomplete, but with tons of promise. The Cards are going to be a factor in the Mid-American Conference. I do not regret picking them to beat all three directional Michigan schools (although the Hustle Belt boys from Kalamazoo were strongly against this). I do regret saying they'd only win four games. I think Ball State can win the MAC West. Will they? They'll need a few breaks to go their way, but it's possible with no absolute one-sided favorite. In 2001, a subpar Cardinals team was a fourth-quarter meltdown against Northern Illinois away from advancing to the MAC championship - a game where Marshall would've thumped the Cardinals.  

Saturday's game against Army will have no bearing on what happens in the MAC. A 49-20 thumping at the hands of Northern Illinois in Week 1 makes one think Ball State can win this game. But Army upset Northwestern, 21-14, Saturday to make one think otherwise, although Northwestern was without Dan Persa and his Heisman-promoting dumbbells.

Army had a lot of passing first downs against Northwestern. False, it did not. If you guessed the answer was zero, winner, winner chicken dinner. Ball State is allowing 142.3 rushing yards per game (72nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision) and Army is the nation's second-best rushing team at 362.3 yards per game. Take with that information what you will.

The game, to be played in Muncie, also gives Army a showcase for its recruiting targets in Indiana. Yes, you read that correctly. Evidently, the Black Knights are trying to make West Central Indiana a stronghold. They've already offered two Lafayette kids - the town in which I reside: Central Catholic's Danny Anthrop (who, by the way, is an absolute STUD) and McCutcheon's Vince Hunsiker. Army is also pursuing Attica's Jarrett Smart, who hasn't received an offer yet. This entire paragraph may be more "inside football" than necessary, but I find it interesting. Anthrop also holds offers from Hustle Belt members Buffalo and Akron. I would very much like Ball State to offer Anthrop as soon as possible in case Northwestern, Purdue or Notre Dame don't offer (he's either received letters or taken unofficials there).

Obviously, the key to this game for Ball State is, can they stop Army's super-awesome rushing attack? I didn't think they'd be 2-1 at this point, so optimism is very, very high right now. Army is a 4.5 favorite, but I'll take the Cardinals +4.5 and to win outright. NO HOMERISM!

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