HEAD TO HEAD: ARMY VS. BALL STATE

Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also make a prediction on the game's final score.

The Army Black Knights return to Michie Stadium after three straight road losses to face the Ball State Cardinals of the MAC conference this Saturday. Army was stunned by the Yale Bulldogs from the Ivy League 49-43 in overtime in a shocking loss. Ball State has struggled in the post Keith Wenning era with their once prolific offense averaging just 21.5 points per game. The Cardinals were off last week. Ball State beat Army 40-14 in Indiana last year.

ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
BALL STATE PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: BALL STATE
REMARKS: A.J. Schurr completed 6-of-12 passes for 94 passing yards with one touchdown against Yale. Schurr hit Edgar Poe for a 22-yard touchdown on a nice throw to his back shoulder. He'll likely start again against Ball State. Fellow quarterback Angel Santiago has been very accurate this year completing 16-of-20 passes (80%) for 240 passing yards. Santiago was clutch on the last series of the Yale game as he completed three straight passes including converting a third-and-10 pass to Edgar Poe to set up the field goal attempt at the end of regulation. Tony Giovannelli has caught five passes for 79 yards. Last year's leading receiver Xavier Moss (35 rec. for 463 yards and a TD) has caught four passes for 41 yards and one touchdown. Army's offensive line is ranked 126th in sack percentage allowed.

Ball State enters the game 68th in the nation in pass defense as they are allowing 247 passing yards per game. The Cardinals secondary is experienced with senior strong safety Brian Jones (97 tackles in 2013) and senior cornerback Eric Patterson who has made 20 tackles, one sack and has knocked down a pass. Free safety Martez Hester has made 21 tackles and defensed a pass. The biggest difference this season is that Ball State lacks the pass rush pressure they generated the past few years up front. Last fall the Cardinals posted 27 sacks while this season they have only three sacks with the defensive line contributing just two sacks in the first four games. Ball State sacked Army's quarterbacks twice last fall.

ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
BALL STATE RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: ARMY
REMARKS: The Black Knights rank eighth in the country in rushing averaging 316 rushing yards per game. Last week Army ran for 386 yards, averaged 7.3 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns against Yale. Quarterback. A.J. Schurr was hurt on the first play of the second half so the quarterbacks essentially split playing time. Schurr ran 15 times for 135 rushing yards and a touchdown all in the first half. He showed excellent speed on a 43-yard touchdown run off a quarterback draw. Angel Santiago (8 for 88 yards, 2 TDs) led the Black Knights to a touchdown on first drive. He raced 53 yards for a score as he exploded down left side. Angel’s next run was a nice second effort after being initially stopped on a 1-yard touchdown run. B-back Larry Dixon leads the Black Knights with 338 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Dixon had a 71- yard touchdown run last year against Ball State. Slotbacks Raymond Maples (2,718 career rushing yards, 8 TDs) and Terry Baggett (1,451 career rushing yards, 11 TDs) see a lot fewer touches in the new spread option offense. The play of the rebuilt offensive line has been inconsistent.

Ball State is ranked 96th in the nation against the run and is allowing over 215 yards per game. The strength of the Cardinals defense is their linebackers. Ben Ingle (116 tackles in 2013) plays on the weak side and is one the best linebackers in the MAC. Ingle leads the Ball State defense with 40 tackles so far this year. Sophomore middle linebacker Zack Ryan (92 tackles, 8.0 for loss in 2013) made a fumble recovery in the last game against Toledo. The Cardinals rebuilt front defensive line has struggled against the run. Defensive end Michael Ayers is second on the team with 23 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss. Ball State allowed the Black Knights 363 rushing yards, gave up 5.7 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns last fall.

BALL STATE PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: BALL STATE
REMARKS: Pete Lembo’s no-huddle, pass-first offensive scheme hasn't been as explosive as in past years. The new quarterback starter is sophomore Ozzie Mann. He has completed 74 of 135 passes (54.8%) for 774 passing yards with five touchdowns against an interception. Thankfully Willie Snead, Jamill Smith and tight end Zane Fakes, who killed Army, have all graduated but the Cardinals still have impact receivers. Kevonn Mabon has a team leading 25 receptions for 292 yards and two scores. He had a 43-yard touchdown catch last week against Toledo. Mabon caught a touchdown pass in 2012 in the game at West Point. Junior Jordan Williams (72 receptions for 1,050 yards, 10 TDs in 2013) was an impact receiver last season but wasn't on the same page early in the year with his new quarterback. They seem to be heating up as Williams caught seven of his ten passes and a touchdown pass in the last game against Toledo. Four different receivers have caught Mann's five touchdown passes.

Army fans are glad that former Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning has graduated. He beat Army all three times they play. He completed 73% of his passes for 838 yards and seven touchdown passes during Lembo's tenure. The Army pass defense struggled against Yale's spread passing attack run by former Clemson quarterback transfer Morgan Roberts. Roberts completed 23-of-40 attempts for 290 passing yards and a touchdown and had an interception that was returned for a score. The Black Knights once again didn't generate much pressure with inside linebacker Andrew King posting the only sack which led to a missed field goal. Free safety Geoff Bacon (20 tackles, PD) suffered a leg injury against Yale and is expected to miss the game. Steven Johnson (23 tackles, 2 PD) will replace him at free safety. Army's cornerbacks Josh Jenkins (22 tackles, 2 INT, 4 PD) and Chris Carnegie (15 tackles, INT., 2 PD) must play better than he did against Yale if Army hopes to win. Jenkins was beat on a 34-yard completion to KeVonn Mahon on a fade route after initially biting on a play action fake last year. Chris Carnegie played with a big cushion and was thrown in front of all day by Ball State.

BALL STATE RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: BALL STATE
REMARKS: All-MAC senior running back Jahwan Edwards leads the Ball State rushing attack with 390 yards on 84 carries and a pair of scores. He ran for 125 rushing yards against Toledo the last time out. Last year he ran for 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns. Edwards also led the Cardinals in rushing in 2012 with 1,410 rushing yards and other 14 touchdowns. Edwards is a big 219-pound running back who runs with power, vision and patience. Junior Horacio Banks (595 yards in 2013) is a quick, change-of-pace running back who has been his understudy the last few years. Banks has run for 234 yards this season and is averaging over five yards a carry. Army has had trouble with Ball State's zone read running attack since Lembo was named head coach. Quarterback Ozzie Mann is basically a pocket passer those longest run this season is eight yards. Ball State has a good offensive line who returned three starters from last season.

Army's defensive front seven was embarrassed by Yale last Saturday. The Black Knights allowed an Ivy League team 335 rushing yards as they gave up 6.0 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns. The Black Knights were stuck on blocks, often failed to cover their gap assignments and missed too many tackles. It was embarrassing how Yale was more physical and tougher than Army. The open field tackling was terrible and some players in the Army secondary acted like they wanted no part in tackling Yale's hard charging running back Tyler Varga. Inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf did make some plays. He made 14 tackles, recovered a fumble, knocked down a pass and returned a interception 45- yards for a touchdown. Timpf was named Independent Defensive player of the week for the second consecutive week.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: BALL STATE
REMARKS: Ball State has one of the best special teams units in the MAC conference. Kicker Scott Secor has hit 10 of 13 field goals and all his extra points. He has hit four-of-five field goals over forty yards. Punter Kyle Schmidt averages 39.6 yards on 14 punts, while Secor has averaged forty yards on eight punts. Lembo uses them situationally. Eric Paterson is averaging 25.4 yards on ten kickoff returns. His longest kick return this year is 61 yards. Aaron Hepp averages 4.8 per punt return. Ball State has allowed a 35 yard punt return and is just average in kick and punt coverage.

Army fans had high hopes, with Jeff Monken personally handling the special teams that this area would improve. They haven't and Army has the same issues they faced when the last head coach Rich Ellerson was in charge of special teams. Punter Alex Tardieu has been the lone bright spot averaging 41.7 yards on 17 punts with good hang time. Tardieu had seven punts fair caught, placed seven inside the 20-yard line and boomed three over fifty yards. Kicker Dan Grochowski missed field goals from 42 yards before the end of regulation and from 25 yards in overtime against Yale. He has missed all three field goal attempts this season. After a rough plebe year he made eight of eleven field goal attempts and all his extra points as a sophomore last fall. This year he has also missed two extra point attempts. He may be kicking for his job this week in practice. Army's punt and kickoff returner Josh Jenkins is clearly quick and can be explosive but the special teams blocking is awful and he never seems to have any room. The Black Knights coverage units have done a nice job.

COACHING
EDGE: BALL STATE
REMARKS: This is Pete Lembo's fourth season in the FBS after spending nearly 20 years in the FCS and lower. He led Ball State to back-to-back bowls and a 10-3 record in 2013. Lembo has a tremendous (105-52) career record and has won everywhere he’s been a head coach. He is an offensive genius who's had tremendous success turning around programs at Lehigh, Elon and now Ball State with his no huddle, hurry up passing system. Lembo has overwhelmed the Army's defense since being named head coach. He has defeated the Black Knights three times as the Cardinals offense has averaged 39 points per game.

Jeff Monken in his first season as Army head coach will need to have his team respond after the stunning upset loss and collapse against Yale. Monken was hired after a successful four year stint as head coach at Georgia Southern where he went 38-16 (704%). He restored winning football and the spread option to the traditional FCS powerhouse. His GSU teams made three straight appearances in FCS Semifinals. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis needs to get his offensive line to stop committing penalties and to play more consistently. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman coached at Ball State under Lembo so hopefully he'll have some ideas on how to best defend them.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: BALL STATE
REMARKS: Ball State is desperate after opening the season with a 1-3 record. They had a bye week last Saturday and have had two weeks to prepare for the Black Knights spread option attack. Army usually plays better at Michie Stadium but their confidence had to be shaken by the total team meltdown against Yale. Pete Lembo is unbeaten in three games against Army. Both teams really need this game.

PREDICTION: Ball State 35, Army 24. Army's defense has struggled against Ball State's high tempo offense attack and their team speed. This Cardinal team isn't as good as the last two years but Ball State should benefit from their bye week and extra preparation time. Ball State has better team speed and talent.

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