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Ball State Cardinals vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Seven Takeaways

Things are looking up for the Cardinals.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

1.  Ozzie's learning and learning fast. In just his second start, at the always intimidating Kinnick Stadium, Ozzie Mann played turnover free football until the game's final play.  Any fan who thought the newly minted signal caller would shred the Hawkeyes through the air is misguided.  Save for a couple ill advised passes, Mann was efficient, aware, and didn't force throws. Saturday showed Ball State has the right QB under center.

2.  Jahwan Edwards will continue his assault on the Ball State record books. Never flashy, always functional, Edwards was impressive in his effort against Iowa. "Quake" didn't top the century mark as he did a week ago at home against Colgate, but he moved the chains for the Cardinals. Edwards rushed 21 times for 81 yards, and most importantly protected the ball. Edwards, paired with explosive running back Horactio Banks, gives Ball State the top rushing attack in the MAC.

3.  This defense bends, but doesn't break. Ok, obviously the cynic can point out that the Ball State defense folded in the final few minutes, unable to preserve the win against Iowa.  I think it's simply a case of running out of gas.  It was Iowa.  Ball State won't have that problem against the vast majority of MAC competition. Before those two late Hawkeye touchdowns, Ball State forced Iowa to punt often.  In fact, the Hawkeyes punted more often than the Cardinals, booting five times, compared to four for Ball State.

4.  Coach Pete Lembo can run some clock. Clearly, we wish we had been able to do that on the drive following the first Iowa touchdown, but the time of possession battle on Saturday was a tight one. Iowa held the ball for just over 31 minutes, Ball State for 29.  Against a team with the talent of Iowa, who was thought to be a popular choice to appear in the Big Ten championship game, running the clock is a must.  Lembo has proven himself to be a mastermind when it comes to appropriate clock management, and on Saturday he gave the Cardinals every opportunity to win.

5.  Iowa fans are kind of classless. I'm not the sore fan who following a loss will rip on the opposing fan base, but c'mon guys.  ESPN went out of its way to show a sea of black and gold exiting Kinnick Stadium about midway through the fourth quarter.  Additionally, while watching on television I could clearly hear fans booing injured Cardinals.  The first time I heard it, I gave the Hawkeye "faithful" the benefit of the doubt.  The second time, it was unmistakeable.  This should in no way reflect Hustle Belt's thoughts on the blog Black Hearts Gold Pants, who helped us with our Ball State at Iowa coverage, and are by all accounts extraordinary scholars and gentlemen.

6.  KeVonn Mabon is a top MAC receiver. After Ball State's top deep threat Jordan Williams left last week's game against Colgate with an ankle injury, Mabon stepped up in a big way to the tune of 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.  With Williams hampered by that injury, Mabon was again Mann's favorite target, connecting 3 times for 44 yards and leading all Ball State receivers. Mabon looks like he'll command considerable attention once conference season begins, and if he and Williams are able to spread the coverage of MAC defenses, the Ball State aerial attack could be deadly.

7.  We can win the MAC West. I know it's Missouri, I know it's Missouri. But I think we all thought we'd see a better effort out of the Toledo Rockets on Saturday.  Also, and I don't want to discount the win, because I carry that MAC flag against the Big Ten all day long, Northwestern is garbage.  If Northwestern went to Northern Illinois, it would be the Wildcats who were getting points against the Vegas spread, not the Huskies. I'm mildly surprised that was not a two touchdown game.  That's not to say that Ball State is better than either Toledo or Northern Illinois.  That's simply to say you could rank them 1 through 3 in any order of finish in the MAC West, and you'd have a convincing argument.