Middle of the Pack Q&A - BnG and Phil Friend Discuss Football

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Phil and Brown got together and asked each other some questions. Here's what they had to say.

Brown and Gold: Keith Wenning threw 50 passes last year, and 71 last week. How has his arm not fallen off yet? Why does Ball State rely so much on the pass with Jahwan Edwards at RB?

Phil Friend: Pete Lembo wants to keep the run/pass output as close to 50-50 as possible I think. After the first two games it was right at 50-50 but that's fallen off a bit. If Wenning couldn't handle the workload, I don't think Lembo would have him throw as much. It reminds me a bit of Joe Tiller having Drew Brees throw until his arm fell off at Purdue. Ball State also relies on Wenning so much because he is really, really good.

Edwards has been solid but Horactio Banks and Barrington Scott have also shown flashes of brilliance. Edwards is currently in the doghouse after fumbling inside the red zone in each of the past two games.

So, hey, what's going on with the quarterbacks? Is there any chance Alex Carder plays? How good is Tyler Van Tubbergen? Were his five touchdowns last week a product of UMass or his improvement? Van Tubbergen actually played against Ball State two years ago, completing one pass for six yards.

BnG: There is a 100% chance that Carder is at the game! Unfortunately, he will be watching the game with a splint on his middle finger, and therefore will be out. TVT though will be back to make his 3rd start of the season, and has an offense that fits his skill-set. Tyler has a rocket for an arm, but his accuracy down-field is a little shaky.

What Cubit has done for TVT is simple: run the screen and swing, and go down-field every now and then. With the numerous injuries to the WR/TEs, it really is a good system to run anyways because it keeps the ball in healthy hands. So to answer your question, it was a bit of both. UMass couldn't play the pass well, but the system really was executed well.

It seems like the Wenning to Snead corner route is the Cardinals bread-n-butter. What else should we expect to see this weekend?

PF: Nothing that we haven't already seen, with Wenning running the read option at optimal efficiency with the RBs and spreading the ball around to the wideouts. This game is going to rest on how the defense does. Ball State won't have a problem scoring points; it's stopping teams that's an issue.

Robert Arnheim threw a 61-yard touchdown pass in last year's game. What wide receiver will match that feat against the Cardinals' atrocious pass defense on Saturday?

BnG: As for this year's good arms, I want to say that Jaime Wilson can sling the pigskin if necessary. Honestly though, Arnheim was a converted QB, so his arm was always loaded. This year, we don't have a player like him in our WR corps.

Besides Wenning, Snead, and Edwards, who should Bronco fans be aware of?

PF: Tight end Zane Fakes is really coming on, catching 11 passes for 98 yards last week. Jamill Smith is always a threat to break a big play or return a kickoff/punt. Smith had 146 receiving yards last week so the receiving corps is way more than just Snead.

It's hard to believe we're already at Week 7 and WMU sits with a 3-3 record. Is this where the Broncos expected to be or is this a disappointment/improvement? Also, I assume WMU would like a re-do on the Illinois game, yes?

BnG: 3-3 isn't completely unexpected, but is a little disappointing. The Illinois and Minnesota games would both want to be done over, especially Minnesota. That was a 5 point game, but Max Shortell threw 3 TDs on 3 straight drives after MarQueis Gray got injured. WMU was shutting Gray down, and Shortell just threw all over the Broncos.

Other than that, the Toledo game hurt a lot, but even with Carder, it would've been difficult. Toledo is such a good team, and having TVT in as a fresh QB didn't help at all. Still, WMU can win the West, and we'll see what happens going forward.

Man that defense is horrid. Is there any chance that Ball State slows down the Broncos Saturday? If so, who does it?

PF: The short answer is no. Defensive tackle Brandon Newman, a transfer from Notre Dame, earned his first start last week. I'd like to see the defensive line disrupt things. The defensive backfield has been pretty bad (save the interception at the end of the South Florida game) so anything to gain an advantage. Another transfer, Jonathan Newsome, is quick off the edge and if he get his hands on TVT, it could be a banner day for the Cardinal defense.

Out of 124 FBS teams, there are only six defenses statistically worse than Ball State (489.7 ppg). What players should we expect to gash the defense? Ball State is also allowing 37.3 ppg.

BnG: *drools* Oh, mai, gawd! I'm a big fan of TVT, and if he can connect down-field, it will silence all his haters. Of course, that is a big if. He will have Jaime Wilson, Josh Schafer, and Blake Hammond has big play WRs and a TE. You might see Eric Monette, who has been battling an injury since the start of the season as well.

One other player you might see is Flenard Whitfield. Remember him? How about from this? Yeah, he plays football now, and actually was targeted last weekend against UMass down-field. He tipped the ball (that was a little to high for him), and it was picked off and returned for the only score for the Minutemen against the 1st-stringers. Otherwise, expect Dareyon Chance, Antoin Scriven, and Brian Fields to control the run/screen/swing games.

This season started so good for the Cardinals. 3-1 with wins over EMU, South Florida, and rival Indiana, and a semi-decent game against Clemson. Now after two losses to an upstart Kent St team (who the Broncos have next weekend) and defending MAC Champs NIU, what is the mood like in Muncie?

PF: Expectations raise when you beat two BCS teams as the Cardinals did against Indiana and USF in back-to-back weeks. There have been missed opportunities all over the place in the past two games, and 5-1 would be much better than 3-3, obviously. There's a sense now that the Cards won't make a bowl game (which seemed like a sure bet after a 3-1 start). A recently released bowl projection had eight MAC teams earning bids - none of them Ball State. Things need to change in a hurry.

This may tie into No. 2 but where did this Jamie Wilson kid come from? It really helped ease the loss of Jordan White. Apparently WMU receivers are just plug-and-play at this point.

BnG: I honestly have no idea. He was a guy that had offers to a few schools, but I believe injuries resulted in having them rescinded. Clearly, he is a Jordan White prototype: 6', possession receiver, great hands, excellent route running. Honestly, if he stays in Kalamazoo for 4 years, I'll be surprised. He's that good, and its that early in his career.

The WMU offense, especially with Alex Carder, needs an "out" receiver for quick, underneath routes. That is White and Wilson. If options 1 and 2 are taken, you can always rely on them to make a catch and keep the ball moving.

What is your prediction for the game? Can Ball State win this one and end any hopes of a MAC West title for the Broncos?

PF: Any MAC team can win any game. That's what make this conference so much fun to watch (and also heart-wrenching). If Alex Carder was playing, I'd probably lean toward the Broncos. Fingers are crossed in Muncie that the defense shows improvement against the man you call TVT. I know Western's defense is OK, but Ball State's had no trouble moving the ball against anyone. I'll take Ball State over Western Michigan 38-35.

BnG: WMU's defense is sort of improved, but their pass defense is shaky. That scares me because Wenning is superb in the air. However, I still think WMU has the better squad of the two, and that will be the key. If TVT can keep things simple and connect on a couple down-field passes, and if the rushing game can move the ball, there is NO reason to think this won't be a Bronco game.

I think that with another week of full practice, TVT only gets more confident and WMU takes this one. WMU 42, Ball St 34.

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