Cardinals Aiming To Take Flight Against Tigers

Previewing the Ball State Cardinals, Auburn's opponent this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.–-With 15 starters returning off last season's team that struggled to a 2-9 record, the Ball State Cardinals were hoping for a better start to the 2005 season.

That hasn't been the case though as suspensions have hurt the depth to start the season and as a result losses to Iowa and Bowling Green have put the Cardinals in a hole to open the year.

There is a bright side to the story though as Ball State led the Falcons deep into the fourth quarter before falling 40-31 against a team that took Wisconsin to the wire in the season opener at Camp Randall Stadium. Led by a strong passing game and experienced defense, Ball State comes into Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday looking to continue a recent trend of MAC teams pulling upsets in the most unlikely of venues.

When you look at Ball State the thing that jumps out to you is the offensive firepower led by junior quarterback Joey Lynch (6-2, 189). Last season Lynch started seven games for the Cardinals, throwing for 1,126 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions. He has started out the 2005 campaign in similar fashion with 321 yards and four touchdowns and just two interceptions. Much of that came against Bowling Green when he had 284 passing yards with all four touchdowns and both interceptions.

The running game is powered by the play of tailback Charles Wynn. Suspended for the Iowa game, the 5-10, 225 senior came back strong last week with 111 yards on 23 carries and also caught six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. The top backup is B.J. Hill (5-7, 170, Fr.) who has 21 yards on 10 carries.

At the wide receiver position junior Terry Moss has been the go-to guy for the Cardinals so far this season. The 5-10, 189 junior has eight catches for 121 yards and one touchdown despite his status as a backup.

Starters Dante Love (5-10, 170, Fr.) and Brandon Hawkins (6-2, 200, Jr.) have combined for just 29 yards on six catches this season. The big play threat comes from sophomore Dan Dunford (5-10, 178) who has 73 yards and a touchdown on just two catches this season. Starting tight end Michael Steinhaus (6-3, 256, Jr.) has two catches for 21 yards on the season.

Up front on offense is where the Cardinals may have some problems against the Tigers with four freshmen expected to get the starting nod on the line. The only upperclassman for Ball State on the offensive line is junior right guard Justin Schneider (6-5, 304), who has started 19 games in his college career. Left tackle Andre Ramsey (6-5, 285), left guard Eric Larrimer (6-5, 308), center Dan Gerberry (6-3, 288) and right tackle Robert Brewster (6-5, 330) round out the starting lineup for Ball State.

Defensively, Ball State returns nine starters off last season's defense that gave up 458 yards a game on average and 52 touchdowns for the year. Through two games this season things have been even worse for the Cardinals as they're allowing 497 yards and 48 points per contest. If Auburn fans are looking for rushing yardage this could be the weekend as the Cardinals are giving up 184 yards per game on the ground on an average of 4.4 yards per carry, but the passing defense has been even more suspect. In two games Ball State has given up 627 yards through the air and seven touchdowns.

Senior defensive end Blair Kramer (6-3, 259) is the leader of the Ball State defense up front that will be one of the smallest the Tigers face all season. In two games Kramer has two sacks and has also forced a fumble.

Rounding out the starting lineup will be nose tackle Tom Kellar (6-3, 298, Jr.), tackle Temidayo Macarthy (6-4, 257, So.) and defensive end Martin Dunbar (6-1, 215, Jr.). Two top backups in Cortlan Booker and Amara Koroma will miss Saturday's game because of suspensions, leaving the Cardinals thin at defensive end.

At linebacker three new starters man the jobs despite the return of former starter Jason Seiman (6-3, 223, Jr.). In the middle junior Brad Seiss (6-0, 225) runs the defense while sophomore Wendell Brown (6-0, 219) handles the strongside duties. On the weakside freshman Bryant Haines (6-5, 214) is the starter with sophomore Mike Dorulla (6-0, 222, So.) his backup.

In the secondary returning starter Erik Keys (5-10, 209) leads an experienced group. This season Keys leads the team in tackles with 18 in two games and was second on the team with 84 tackles a year ago. Rounding out the starting unit are free safety David Gater (5-11, 198, Sr.) and cornerbacks Ryan Patrick (5-10, 170, So.) and Joshua Taylor (5-10, 200, Sr.).

Ball State's special teams are led by place kicker Brian Jackson, who is back after a solid sophomore season when he hit on 12-16 field goals and 23-24 extra points. The punter is freshman Chris Miller, who is averaging 42.8 yards per attempt on 20 punts. Returning kicks for the Cardinals will be Hill and the dangerous Moss, who is averaging 19.1 yards per kickoff return this season.

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday and TV coverage is available on a pay-per-view basis only.

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