A very happy homecoming indeed.
Ball State returns home this Saturday following a historic win at ACC foe Virginia last week, to lock horns with Kent State. The Cardinals enter Saturday's matchup 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the MAC, and with an offensive machine averaging better than 41 points a game. Last week the Cardinals exploited a Virginia squad ranked sixteenth in the country in total defense for 48 points and 346 yards through the air. Ball State boasts the top passing offense in the MAC by a wide margin, and a week ago senior quarterback Keith Wenning became the school's all time leading passer. Ball State head coach Pete Lembo knows the Cardinals need to be on alert though.
"Kent State is a talented and well coached team," Lembo said. Kent State shot down the Cardinals 45-43 a year ago, derailing Ball State's chances to win the MAC West.
Wenning is now the only quarterback in FBS football to have thrown for 300 or more yards in six games this season. Feature back Jahwan Edwards has rushed for 9 touchdowns in the last 3 games. Much of this can be attributed to a Ball State offensive line that has showed significant improvement throughout the season.
"It's an interesting group because they're all sort of from different classes" Lembo said. "And they're slowly but surely coming together and playing as a unit."
Kent State enters Scheumann Stadium a week after a spirited effort against MAC leader Northern Illinois. KSU fell 38-24 in a game they trailed just 28-24 entering the fourth quarter. In that game All-World tailback Dri Archer displayed flashes of the brilliance we relished in 2012, running back a kickoff 100 yards for a score, and catching a 66 yard Colin Reardon pass for a touchdown. Kent State head coach Paul Haynes knows Archer will need to play a critical role in Saturday's game if the Golden Flashes are going to hand with the Cardinals.
"It kind of goes back to what he can do and what we can do with him," Haynes said. "Will his role increase? Maybe. But he's still, and with a lot of other guys, not 100 percent."
The bigger concern is the Kent State defense. The Golden Flashes yielded nearly 700 yards of total offense, including 454 yards on the ground, against NIU. Ball State's balanced offense will be a considerable challenge for KSU, For the season Kent State fields the 112th ranked defense in FBS. Haynes expressed a strong effort against both the run and pass will be key to any measure of success Kent State will have.
"You can't have a good run defense without a good secondary,'' Haynes said. "There is no such thing as a cover corner."
The atmosphere Saturday in Muncie should be electric. Ball State's "Fill the Scheu" campaign is aiming to bring 20,000 fans to Scheumann Stadium for the first time since 2008's 12-2 season. Saturday's game can be seen on ESPN at 3 P.M. Eastern.