Four seasons ago a freshman quarterback from Coldwater, Ohio embarked on his first season as the starting quarterback for the Ball State Cardinals. Fast-forward to today and Wenning is in the midst of a stellar senior season and has rewritten the BSU record books in the process. Now Wenning gets a chance to solidify his case as the greatest quarterback in Ball State history as he takes his 9-1 Cardinals on the road tonight to the formidable home of the No. 15 Northern Illinois Huskies. The two schools are neck-and-neck in the MAC West, and are easily the two best quarterbacks in the conference. But when it's all said and done, will Wenning come out on top? Let's get to know the senior signal caller a bit better.
Wenning is the top passer in the MAC.
While the argument can certainly be made that Jordan Lynch is the conference's best quarterback, there's no doubt Keith Wenning is the leading passer. Certainly the prototypical quarterback is undergoing a bit of a redefinition in contemporary offenses, but when it comes to airing it out, none are better than Wenning. The Ball State signal caller leads the conference is passing yards per game, averaging 316. That's a full 77 yards better than the next QB on the list, Ohio's Tyler Tettleton. For the season he's already topped 3100 yards. Wenning also leads the conference in passing efficiency, and has thrown a 27 touchdowns versus just 5 interceptions. His top game for 2013 was on the biggest stage, throwing for 346 yards and a pair of touchdowns against BCS foe Virginia in a 48-27 blowout on October 5th. Nationally Wenning is second in passing yards, third in TD passes. Rushing statistics were not available at the time of this article.
Wenning can play at Huskie Stadium.
While it's widely agreed upon that Huskie Stadium is the toughest venue to play at in the MAC, don't expect Wenning to be rattled. In his only previous trip to DeKalb, Wenning put the Cardinals in a position to win. In 2011 the Cardinals lost a shootout to the Huskies, 41-38. In that game Wenning completed 23 of 43 passes for 245 yards, two touchdowns and did not commit a turnover. In fact, Ball State led that game 31-14 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. NIU staged a furious comeback that culminated in a field goal with just 8 seconds remaining. The Huskies ran up 710 yards of offense, and quarterback Chandler Harnish accounted for a school record 519 of those. Wenning is the leading passer in Ball State history, and his list of accomplishments is a lengthy one. One thing Wenning has never done however is beat Northern Illinois, a fact he surely has not forgotten.
Wenning is building a resume.
And Wednesday is the biggest stage. There are two games in all of FBS football being played on Wednesday. One is Miami of Ohio and Kent State. The other is the Ball State and Northern Illinois. The game features a possible BCS crasher in NIU and a team knocking on the door of the Top 25 in Ball State. The game is nationally televised on ESPN2 and will showcase two of the country's most prolific offensive units. All eyes will be on this game. While Lynch is certainly more of a household name, Wenning is beginning to garner some NFL interest. That's not lost of Ball State head coach Pete Lembo, who acknowledges the presence of scouts at practice.
"I certainly don't think Keith is flying under the radar with them," Lembo said.
Even more so than Ball State's bowl game, this will be the best opportunity for Wenning to display what he can do on a national level. NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt has taken notice.
"Very well coached. And he's got good size at 6-foot-2 1/8 and 223 pounds."
Everyone at Ball State would tell you the game is about bringing the Golden Stalk back to Muncie, and that the focus is only beating Northern and nothing else. It's the company line, and it's true. It's games like Wednesday's, however, that can make the difference between a prospect on the bubble getting a shot or not. Wenning will be playing for more than just a "W" in this MAC West rivalry.
Keith Wenning, Linebacker
Or at least that's what the only other school to offer a scholarship to the Ball State signal caller had their sights set on. Despite a dazzling high school career that culminated in Wenning being named Ohio Division 5 Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, only two scholarship offers came in. Ball State, and Air Force. Though Air Force wasn't looking for a quarterback. At 6'3" and 220 points, Wenning would have been a linebacker for the Falcons. The Coldwater, Ohio product also received interest from Cincinnati, Toledo, Connecticut, and West Virginia before committing to Ball State in December of 2009.
Hobnobbing with football's elite.
Wenning's preseason prep went to the next level prior to this season. This summer he made a trip to California to work with famed quarterback guru Todd Durkin. Presently Durkin is working with nine NFL quarterbacks and dozens of other professional athletes. During Wenning's visit this summer he worked with Durkin a the same time as Drew Brees, Alex Smith, and Carson Palmer. During the MAC's Media Day, Wenning briefly spoke of working with NFL caliber athletes. He acknowledged receiving pointers, and later joked "I really wouldn't say much to them about helping them." The MAC's top passer may just have been working with future colleagues.