'Huskie' task faces momentum-driven Cards

Ball State sits atop MAC West; faces non-conference Connecticut

After two consecutive wins -- one against a previously ranked team -- Ball State travels to Connecticut to try and continue its winning momentum.

Defeating Toledo, 24-20, Ball State claimed the top spot in the Mid-American Conference West division. Even though the game against the Huskies Saturday is not a MAC game, it is equally important in the scheme of things for his team this season, according to coach Bill Lynch.

"We have to maintain the momentum that we have right now," Lynch said. "We played with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm and our intensity level was good on Saturday.

"I hope we learned that if you play that way good things can happen," Lynch said. "I'm anxious to see if we can do the same this week."

Quarterback Talmadge Hill places importance on the game against Connecticut, because he realizes now that playing well on the road will be important in the latter part of the season against fellow MAC West teams.

"The win is very important, just to continue with the momentum," Hill said. "If you lose then you don't know when or if you can get that momentum back. We have to continue to play well on the road, because we will have to play well down the road against Northern and Western."

Last year the Cardinals faced off with the Huskies for the first time, winning 29-0.

Lorenzo Scott, this week's MAC West Defensive Player of the Week, said last year's game was important, but this year's game will be a new game that doesn't really depend much on how things went last season between the two teams.

"It was a big game last year when we shut them out," Scott said. "It helped give our defense a lot of confidence coming into this season.

"That was last year though. We don't talk about last year that much, except to use it for preparation.

"They are a totally different team. Last year they were banged up and ready to be done. This year they have some pretty good athletes and they are ready to go."

Some of those good athletes come with Connecticut's defense, according to Lynch.

"Their defense is tough," Lynch said. "They move a lot. If you want to compare this game with last year's, we had to really work hard to earn anything we got."

One thing the Huskie defense has not been real strong at this season is yardage allowed in the air.

On average, Connecticut allows its opponents to 251 yards a game passing. Lynch believes those numbers have a bit to do with the teams they have faced this year, commenting that South Florida, Rutgers and Buffalo all pass the ball a great deal.

Against Toledo, Ball State held it's own in the air as Hill had his second-best performance of the year with 222 yards for the game.

But, what won the Toledo game for Ball State was the Cardinal defense, according to Lynch.

"The key to the game was our defense," Lynch said. "They controlled Toledo and that is very difficult to do. They played really hard throughout. They are learning that if they play that hard all the time then good things should happen."

Hill hopes the defense will continue to be as strong as it was against Toledo. According to Hill, a solid defensive performance just makes his job as quarterback that much easier.

"They've done it and now they know they can do it," Hill said. "Defense wins championships, point blank. When your defense is playing like they are, all the offense have to do is control the football and not make too many mistakes."

On the other side of the ball, Cardinal tailback Marcus Merriweather will look to get back in the swing of things after he was held to 39 yards and one touchdown against Toledo. Merriweather is the nation's No. 18 rusher and the MAC's No. 1 with 553 yards on 119 attempts for the season. The Huskies allow an average of 133.8 yards rushing a game.

Connecticut, which is part of the Big East Conference, has dabbled with a few MAC opponents this season. The Huskies were defeated by Buffalo at home, 37-20 while Connecticut defeated Eastern Michigan at home, 19-0.

Ball State acquired its first win of the season against Eastern Michigan, 35-14.


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