Ball State linebacker Ben Ingle goes for the sack against Army in the third quarter of the game on Sept. 7. Ball State would overtake Army with a final score of 40-14. DN PHOTO COREY OHLENKAMP
FOOTBALL: Cardinals set to test rush defense, start new quarterback
The Ball State football team had one quarterback starter for the past three years. After five games, it will have two.
The team announced redshirt freshman Jack Milas will start Saturday’s Homecoming game against Western Michigan, replacing redshirt sophomore Ozzie Mann.
It is currently unknown how the change will affect the offensive game plan, as Milas has yet to attempt a pass in a game for Ball State.
Milas replaced Mann after the team went 1-4 in his first five starts. The Cardinals are currently on a four-game losing streak, including a loss to FCS opponent Indiana State.
That was the first Ball State loss to a FCS opponent since losing to Liberty in 2010.
In the game, Mann made an ill-advised scramble to the end zone as time expired, trying to make a play to give Ball State a lead. Instead, Mann fell short of the touchdown, giving Indiana State the victory.
Milas looks to improve Ball State’s passing statistics on Saturday.
He will take on the Broncos, who, in five games, have four interceptions, making them tied for 68th in the country. Western Michigan also has just seven sacks in 2014, tied for 100th in the country.
Despite the changes made to the team’s offense, the Ball State defense will still have its own challenges on Saturday.
After facing Toledo’s Kareem Hunt and Army’s barrage of rushing threats, Ball State will face Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin and his 5.8 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns this season.
Ball State’s rushing defense was carved up by Toledo and Army to the tune of 743 yards and seven touchdowns. With hopes of a packed Scheumann Stadium for homecoming, defensive coordinator Kevin Kelly said this is the perfect time for the defense to get back on track.
“You have to take a look at your scheme and see where mistakes are being made,” Kelly said. "[You have to] keep focused on what you can control and try to get better.”
Currently, Ball State’s rushing defense is ranked ninth in the Mid-American Conference, giving up an average of 198 yards per game. Linebacker Ben Ingle said after the loss to Army that it was clear the defense needs to figure out what’s going wrong.
That won’t be easy going up against Franklin. He’s a 220-pound freshman that has shown the ability to both run past opponents and through them, a formidable challenge for every team he’s faced.
“Once he sees someone isn’t in the right gap, he busts a big one,” Kelly said. “He’s got size, strength, speed, and he’ll be a force for the next three years.”
One key to slowing down the rushing attack is defensive end Michael Ayers. He’s second on the team in tackles with 37 and has been one of the more consistent players for Kelly.
Gap discipline is crucial to preventing big gains during rushing plays. Certain players are responsible for gaps that develop along the line of scrimmage and down the field. If players abandon those gaps, there’s wide open running room for running backs to take advantage of.
Ayers and the rest of the defensive line will have to stay disciplined and not overpursue, allowing Franklin to cut back, find gaps and torch the defense.
For him, it all starts with giving maximum effort on every play.
“The only way to slow him down is to play relentless; we believe we have all the tools and weapons to slow Western Michigan down,” Ayers said. “There’s a lot to compliment about their offense, but if we play hard, we’ll be able to slow him down.”
Containing the Broncos' rushing offense would put the ball into the hands of sophomore quarterback Zach Terrell, which could be a positive for the Cardinals considering their pass defense is one of the the top ranked in the MAC.