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Ball State Holds On At EMU, 31-30 Despite Defensive Lapses

Watching Alex Gillett doing his Dan LeFevour impersonation was not fun to watch.

That play Eastern Michigan ran out of the shotgun about 1,000 times, the QB sweep, was way more efficient than it ever should have been. Watching Gillett gobble up those yards was akin to eating vegetables out of pure joy.

Ball State had the best defense in the nation on first and second downs. On third down, Eastern Michigan turned into Oregon playing against New Mexico on the varsity level on NCAA 12. No yardage distance was too much for the Eagles Saturday. Third and 20, perfect first down; 3rd-and-8, let's just run it; 3rd-and-12, let's throw a perfect 13-pass and move the chains.

Moral of the story: watching Ball State try to play defense against Eastern Michigan Saturday was painful. Northern Illinois and Toledo, Ball State's final two opponents, both possess exemplary offenses, as witnessed by this week's 63-60 game. Tack all of this on top of the 45 points Western Michigan put up last week and, ugh, this defense is a scab that keeps getting reopened and may not heal over any time soon.

On a game frull of painful plays, the most excruciating was the pass from Gillett to Tyreese Russell right before the end of the third quarter, giving EMU a 28-27 lead. Ball State was in a "Cover 2" which was code for "have CB Eric Patterson not move and let Russell find a wide-open spot in the zone for a touchdown."

Bad coverage, bad tackling, bad angles, bad pressure, can I continue? I'll stop there, most importantly because, despite the negativity surrounding those first five paragraphs, Ball State won this game, 33-31.

Inexplicably, somehow, someway.

This may be one of those instances where I'm way too pessimistic for my own good about the teams I follow. There was not a lot of joy watching this game, even with Keith Wenning's solid passing today (horrific INT notwithstanding). I always assume the bottom is going fall out for my teams. Before Ball State's final drive, I got two texts - one from my brother and one from a former Ball State football manager - who asked me if I thought Ball State would win. I said no to both. I've got to have more confidence in this team during live game situations.

Wenning got knocked around on that last drive, but he rose to the occasion in completing a handful of clutch passes, including the last one to Briggs Orsbon which set up Steve Schott's game-winning 44-yard field goal.

I'm burying the lede here, because with today's win, BALL STATE IS BOWL ELIGIBLE! I'm not sure most of Chirp Nation (this is a name I made up, but I'm hoping that someday it sticks) believed that Ball State would be bowl-eligible when the season began two months ago. But here Ball State sits with six wins and still an outside shot to win the MAC West.

The Cards are going to need some help - they'll definitely need to beat Northern Illinois and Toledo, and need someone to beat Western Michigan. It's a lot to ask, but this is where things like the dreaded Buffalo Principle apply - you never know what's going to happen. But Pete Lembo has made a lot of believers out of this team, myself included.

Stevie, I'll buy you a drink if I ever see you at The Chug. Well done, sir.