I'm not saying it's time to panic, but I am saying it's time to worry. Ball State's defense hasn't done much good so far in 2015. Yes, they held their ground versus VMI in the first half, but since then it's all been downhill.
Here's how bad it has become:
In four of VMI's last five drives of the week one game, the Cards defense allowed touchdowns. The Keydets put up 21 total points versus two FBS teams a season ago, but they managed to top that number in just one half versus the Cardinals.
Overall, the passing yards are what stick out. And no, this next stat isn't a typo: Ball State gave up 444 yards passing to a lower-tier FCS school. In total, VMI was able to stick 547 yards on the Cardinals' defense. That's more than Texas A&M managed to put up last Saturday. The Keydets also ran just 78 plays on the day, a statistic that allowed them to put up 7 yards a play.
To get more in depth, let's remove the Keydets' offensive stats from the first quarter. All four of their drives ended in punts, and the Cardinals held steady to only allow 49 total yards on 16 plays. It was a good start. Now, take the stats from the next three quarters. Ball State allowed 498 yards on VMI's last 59 plays of the game. That amounts to an incredible 8.44 yards per play. VMI's first drive of the second quarter ended in a three-and-out as well, so if you remove that and look at the yards per play numbers, they spike at nearly 9 (8.94).
These are numbers that will not do any justice versus practically any Mid-American Conference opponent.
That bad finish versus VMI certainly carried over to the Texas A&M game. The Ball State defense was, how I described it, "no more than a sieve". The Aggies scored touchdowns in six of their seven first half drives. (Before you kill me in the comments, yes I do know that Texas A&M could very well win the SEC West, and are one of the most productive offensives in FBS history outside of Oregon and Baylor).
Pete Lembo is not at fault for much of this, but one could very well wonder if he has made the same mistake Kevin Wilson has made at Indiana: not enough time on defense.
Next week will be a test for coordinator Kevin Kelly's unit. Ball State plays an EMU team that is no longer a pushover. The Eagles' offense has looked extremely impressive through two games. It might only be two games, but Eastern Michigan has put up an outstanding 41 points per game in its road victory over Wyoming and heart-breaking defeat to Old Dominion.
Chris Creighton's Eagles like to run the ball mostly, but that doesn't mean they're scared to throw it, something that the Cardinals have struggled mightily against. Last week, Brogan Roback tossed the ball around for 330 yards on the road against Wyoming (Yes, Roback did that... which is insane), giving EMU their first non-conference road win in 27 years.
There are a few bright spots. This squad does have leaders in Sean Wiggins and Ben Ingle, and that this defense has forced six fumbles in just two games. Talk about going for the ball!
Ball State certainly has things to improve on if they are going to be a contender from the outside in a stellar MAC West. All this coupled with what could be the start of a quarterback controversy between Jack Milas and Riley Neal, means that Ball State fans might have to wait one more year to get a shot at putting some bowl game hardware in the trophy case.