My View - UT/BSU

This week My View by Tom Mauter weighs in on the Rockets MAC opener against Ball State in Muncie, IN. Toledo will travel to Muncie on Friday, to prepare for a Noon start on Saturday. The game will be televised by ESPN Plus/Gameplan and air on WTVG-13 in Toledo. It will also be available on on the Internet. Read on for Tom's View.

The plurality of pre-season prognosticators preferred the plumage of the Cardinals over the Rockets predicted proficiencies in the MAC West. Results, however, have been protean based on field performance.

Ball State has only four returning starters on offense for new head coach Stan Parrish who is taking over the reins from Brady Hoke. Fact, coming into this season, Stan Parrish has lost 27 of his last 28 games as head coach. That streak is now 31 out of 32. I'm still scratching my head over the pre-season pondering.

The early line has the Rockets a 6.5 to 7 point favorite. This must be because of the Rockets' Muncie meltdown memories of days gone by. This, however, is a new era!

On Offense
The loss of all-star QB Nate Davis and All-MAC TE Darius Hill hurt but an even bigger loss is the graduation of four starting offensive linemen – tackles Andre Ramsey and Robert Brewster, right guard Kyle Cornwell and center Dan Gerberry with Brewster, Ramsey and Gerberry earning All-MAC honors.

The 2009 OL has allowed 10 sacks, 10 QB hurries and two safeties while paving the way for just 112 yards of rushing per game (3.7 per carry) over the first four games.

Both the running and the passing game have been less than stellar averaging a speck more than 18 points a game. The Cardinals are pointing to the 30 points they tallied in their last game versus Auburn as a sign of improvement. Consider it was 47-17 midway through the third quarter and the game was well in hand with Auburn clearing their bench. If it's a sign, I say it's a very small, dimly lit sign.

Redshirt freshman QB Kelly Page (6'3", 210#) is playing like a freshman. His 48% pass completion rate includes more INTs (5) than TD passes (3). His longest completion is 34 yards and is averaging 127 passing yards per game. That's a routine quarter or two for Air Opelt.

Inexperience is evident as Page makes mistakes of throwing into coverage and holding on to the ball too long.

Page's receiving corps is led by sophomore WR Briggs Orsbon (6'0", 185#) with 17 catches/131 yards. Orsbon was the leading Cardinal receiver last year. The only other Cardinal receiver with double digit catches is RB MiQuale Lewis who has a dozen receptions for 53 yards. Speedy WR, sophomore Torieal Gibson (5'9", 171#) is a deep threat with eight catches good for 124 yards and a team-leading 15.5 yards per catch. He is followed by WR Daniel Ifft (6'3", 183#) averaging 14.4 yards on seven catches. TE Ryan Hartke (6'4", 235#) is without a catch over the first four games and WR Seth White is out for the season with a broken collarbone.

The biggest underachiever to date is RB senior MiQuale Lewis (5'6", 184#). Last year's stats featured 1,736 yards rushing and 22 TDs making him the No. 2 returning rusher in the nation this year and first team All-MAC. Lewis has netted a whopping 185 yards in four games with two TDs. Consider he had two big runs which helped him gain 103 yards in the season-opener against North Texas. That leaves Lewis with 82 yards in the last three games.

Coach Parrish used backup tailback sophomore Cory Sykes (5'7", 157#), perhaps the fastest player on the team, against Auburn. He rushed for 44 yards, the same as Lewis, on seven carries versus 15 for Lewis. Referring to Sykes, "the strategy is to get the ball into our best playmakers' hands the best we can," Parrish said.

On Defense
New defensive coordinator Doug Graber is still searching for a cohesive unit. His 4-3 scheme has had different players starting on the front four and at line backer in each of the four games. Factor in the probable loss of two DBs for the Rockets game and his challenges are mounting. Cornerbacks Brandon Carnegie (knee injury) and free safety Sean Baker (a broken hand) are doubtful. They are both in the top nine in team tackles and, combined, have 9 of the team's 10 pass breakups.

The defensive leaders LBs junior Davyd Jones (6'1", 210#) and true freshman Travis Freeman (6'0", 215") have 36 and 32 tackles respectively. Right DE Robert Eddins has a team leading eight TFL and three QB sacks to go with his 23 tackles. The Cardinals defense is fast side to side against short passes behind the LOS and inside screens. The DBs tend to play off wide outs preventing being burnt deep leaving 5-yard completion with yards available after the catch.

Special Teams
Replacing Cardinal punter Chris Miller was to be a challenge for Coach Stan Parrish. Miller was one of the top MAC punter and on the Ray Guy Award watch list along with Bret Kern last year. Red shirt freshman punter Scott Kovanda has taken than worry off of Coach Parrish's plate. Kovanda has an amazing net average of 40.6 yards per punt, which leads the MAC. Cardinals coach Stan Parrish said. "he and (long snapper Cody) Muhlenkamp are a dynamic duo. Every snap has been right there." Ball State unveiled a rugby punt in the second half against New Hampshire. "We wanted to let (future opponents) know that if they bring that rush up the middle, one of these games he's going to tuck the ball under his arm and go," Parrish said.

Kicker Jake Hogue consistently puts the kickoff at or near the goal line with two touchbacks. Place Kicker Ian McGarvey is a solid eight for ten in field goals with a long of 48 yards.

What to Look For
The Rockets defense will continue what has worked against BSU - crowding the line of scrimmage to limit Lewis' rushing effectiveness.

More of RB Sykes using his speed to the outside. The Rockets to keep BSU under 25 points. I will be surprise to see one QB sack of Opelt. QB Kelly Page to run the ball off play action fake.

The Rocket OL will manhandle the BSU front four. The Rockets will run Collins and Williams between the tackles particularly on our left side.

The depleted Cardinal secondary will be running after Rocket receivers all evening.

Another INT by the Rockets defense.

One Rocket punt return of more than five yards will be a surprise.

With all respect to BSU's two undefeated opponents, New Hampshire and Auburn, the Rockets should put up offensive numbers yet to be seen by the Cardinals.

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