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2011 College Football Season Preview: Ball State Cardinals

2010 Record: (4-8, 3-5 in MAC)

Head Coach: Pete Lembo (1st year at BSU, 79-36 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2008 Season GMAC Bowl: lost to Tulsa 45-13

CFBZ Ball State Links

2010 Preview


9/3: Indiana

9/10: at South Florida

9/17: Buffalo (2010 result: won 20-3)

9/24: Army (2009 result: lost 24-17)

10/1: at Oklahoma

10/8: Temple (2009 result: lost 24-19)

10/15: at Ohio (2009 result: lost 20-17)

10/22: Central Michigan (2009 result: won 31-17)

10/29: at Western Michigan (2010 result: lost 45-16)

11/5: at Eastern Michigan  (2010 result: lost 41-38 OT)

11/15: at Northern Illinois (2010 result: lost 59-21)

11/25: Toledo (2010 result: lost 31-24)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 22.0 ppg (7th in MAC, 94th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 152.25 yds/game (5th in MAC, 63rd in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 153.6 yds/game (last in MAC, 109th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 305.8 yds/game (10th in MAC, 106th in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 30.4 ppg (10th in MAC, 88th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 178.33 yds/game (11th in MAC, 87th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 220.0 yds/game (7th in MAC, 59th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 398.3 yds/game (10th in MAC, 79th in Nation)

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: -0.42 per game (7th in MAC, 83rd in Nation)

Penalties: 49.5 yds/game (6th in MAC, 49th in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 8

Defense: 7

Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Keith Wenning, Soph (128 of 235 for 1373 yds, 14 TD, 14 INT)

Rushing: Eric Williams, Jr (127 for 613, 4.8 ypc, 5 TD)

Receiving: WR Jack Tomlinson, Soph (29 rec for 484 yds, 6 TD)

Tackles: LB Travis Freeman, Jr (109)

Sacks: 4 tied with 1

Interceptions: S Sean Baker, Sr (6)

The Stan Parrish experiment lasted only two full years at Ball State as he finished with a 6-19 career mark with the Cardinals. Ball State now turns to Pete Lembo who has coached at Lehigh and Elon. Lembo has coached for five years at each of those schools and only had a losing season one year (his first year at Elon in 2006 when the team went 5-6). Lembo will have his work cut out for him as the Cardinals were just 1-4 last year against teams they play in 2011, against teams they didn't play last year they were 1-4 in 2009 and then the other three are BCS opponents.

The good news is that Lembo returns a good amount of starters including the teams leading passer, rusher, receiver, tackler and interceptor (and only 1 of those 5 players is a senior). It will be very interesting to see how quickly Lembo can get Ball State headed in the right direction. We sought out the Ball State blog Over The Pylon to get their take on the 2011 season. Make sure you follow them on Twitter @overthepylon.

Last year Ball State team finished 4-8. What are the biggest areas that the Cardinals need to address this year to take the next step?

There are honestly a ton of areas that could be improved on, as no one particular area for BSU was exceptionally strong last season. Some BSU fans will point to the ongoing battle for QB1 between Keith Wenning and Kelly Page as the thing to watch, but I think first and foremost is the offensive and defensive lines, two units exceptionally thin in numbers but significantly more experienced than last year. With the installation of a new offensive and defensive scheme, as those two units go, so will go the success of 2011. 

Stan Parrish was shown the door last year after going 6-19. Pete Lembo from Elon was hired to take his place. What is your take on Pete Lembo?

Lembo has certainly done things different than in years past or really ever in Muncie. He's worked tirelessly to connect with fans, alums, and the local community presumably to increase their involvement in the program and hopefully put asses in the seats come fall Saturdays. It's an uphill battle for Lembo, as he has an administration that may not be the most supportive, a team that's been super successful and super unsuccessful all in the last three years, and a team that from all accounts lagged behind his expectations in strength training and football IQ. He's only had spring practice, but he has expressed his commitment to the little things and improving the ability of the players to make decisions on the field. And that is a good thing. Most of the really successful teams are detail-oriented and high IQ, and I can't imagine that's a coincidence.

Ball State was dead last in passing offense last year in the MAC at only 153 yards per game. Who needs to step up to help in this area?

I would presume that Keith Wenning will be the starter come fall, and after working out some kinks as a part-year first-year starter last fall, his productivity should markedly improve. That's contingent on his offensive line being able to protect him and his receivers coming up with catches. From all accounts, the Lembo system should allow him to flourish, assuming those around him step their game up as well.

What is the one game on the schedule that you want to win more than any other?

Selfishly, Oklahoma, because we'd be beating the #1 team in the country. More realistically, I think Buffalo on 9/17. It gets us our first win in conference of the '11 season, and hopefully gives the team some momentum heading into Oklahoma and USF. Both of those games are probably Ls but a win against the Bulls and the wins I expect to get against IU and Army mean we start MAC play at 3-2 (1-0) and that's a good thing.

What are the biggest reasons to be optimistic about Ball State football this year?

Pete Lembo, plain and simple. Everything he's said or done about BSU makes me think he knows what it takes to win, build a program, and be successful.

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

As much as I hate to say it, I'm looking at a 5-7 final record. .500 or above and I'm thrilled. What will be a successful season is glimmers of hope and performance for the years ahead and players playing with passion and intensity and limiting mistakes. That hasn't been the case the last few years.

Next Preview: Marshall

2011 Team Previews

C-USA- Houston, SMU, Southern Mississippi

MAC- Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo

MWC- UNLV, Wyoming

Sun Belt- FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy, ULM

WAC- Idaho


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