As Lewis goes, so do the Cards

Fresh off a record breaking Junior season as part of a great season by the Ball State football squad, MiQuale Lewis and his Head Coach Stan Parrish expect big things in 2009.

Anything is reasonable.

That is Ball State senior running back MiQuale Lewis' response to whether or not he can reach the 2,000-yard plateau this season.

After a monster 2008 campaign, expectations are through the roof for the Cardinal senior. Instead of being just one of Nate Davis' many wingmen, he'll be depended on to supply a bulk of the offensive load.

But after last season's 1,736 yards, how much more can he produce?

"When you set numbers, you set yourself up for a trap," Ball State coach Stan Parrish said. "We want to win and some games he may receive the ball more than he runs it. We're just going to go out and do our best. We're not into stats. We're about winning games and so is he."

But in order to win those games, it's going to be up to Lewis to produce.

And in Ball State's three biggest regular season games last year, Lewis came up huge.

He rushed for a career-high 177 yards in last year's Mid-American Conference "Game of the Century" against Central Michigan, tallied four touchdowns in a blowout win against Indiana and was asked to carry the ball 32 times in the regular season finale against Western Michigan in which the Cardinals finished off an improbable undefeated regular season.

Those numbers are putting Lewis on most people's lists of top 10 running backs in the nation.

"Last year, we had a lot of players that were in the spotlight and I was under the radar," Lewis said. "This year, I'm more of that leader on the offensive side and it feels good to be on those charts.

"It's a privilege to be mentioned with some of those top running backs in the country and try to work my hardest to make this team win and do whatever I think is possible to help us win a MAC championship and bring the fans out."

Lewis went under-the-radar until last year because of injuries. He missed huge chunks of his freshman and sophomore season with injuries. Staying injury-free last year helped prove that Lewis' gaudy high school statistics were not a fluke when he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry his senior year at Fort Wayne Snider.

"I just got to stay humble and do what I do best," Lewis said. "Stay true to myself and my teammates. Outsiders don't matter, it's about this community and family."

A lot of Lewis' success last year goes to the team's offensive line, which produced gaping holes. With three starters gone due to graduation, those trailer-wide running spaces may not happen as often in 2009.

"We've got to get the ball in his hands where he can make a guy miss," Parrish said. "We have to be a little bit different because we lost of lot of that offense. He can run, catch, do it all. It's our job to get him the ball."

If Lewis did have a weakness last year, it was an inability to break long runs. Although he had plenty of 10-15 yard carries, there were plenty of attempts in which he only had one man to beat and was tackled.

It's also the attribute Lewis says he's worked on the most this year.

"I'm just trying to use my speed to break into long runs and break into the end zone, little small detail things," Lewis said.

Parrish also adds a few things on top of that.

"Pass protection, catching the ball, running routes, all the little things…we've seen a tremendous improvement," the first-year coach noted.

Even with the great regular season last year, the biggest prize of all eluded the Cardinals: a Mid-American Conference championship. It's something Lewis wants badly.

"I want to stay healthy and win a MAC championship," Lewis said. "We haven't won one since 1996 and this is the year to do."

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