Momentum key for Cardinals

Kent state last home game of regular season for Ball State.

On Tuesday, Mid-American Conerence West teams Toledo and Western Michigan faced off on ESPN. For any Cardinal player who wanted to attend, the Ball State football complex was open for anyone who wanted to watch the game -- a game that was esentially one of the Cardinals most important games of the season, despite having nothing to do with it.

Because Toledo won, Ball State is now one win away from winning a MAC West title.

However, first, they must play Kent State.

Saturday, at 1 p.m., Ball State and Kent State will face off for the Cards final regular home season game at Ball State Stadium.

According to head coach Bill Lynch, even though it will be the game against Northern Illinois two weeks from now that will be the deciding factor for the Cards' quest for a MAC championship, this Saturday's game has some importance also.

"It's a big football game for a lot of reasons," Lynch said. "Number one, it's our last home football game for a big group of seniors.

"It's also really important to mantain the momentum we have gotten over the last four weeks. And it's also an opportunity to go over .500 and it's the first time we have had that opportunity in quite some time."

The last time the Ball State football team had a winning record was in 1996, a team that won the MAC championship and a team that has since come and gone, completely.

For tailback Marcus Merriweather, the winning record is not just important for the players sake.

"It's improtant not only for the team but for the coaching staff as well," Merriweather said. "There has been a lot of controverysy surrounding Ball State football and I think once we get it together and go over .500 for the first time since '96, it will put more confidence in our program."

To Lynch, the winning record isn't that big of a factor while still in season.

"It's important when it's all said and done," Lynch said. "When you are in the middle of it, you don't think about it . You don't talk about it and you aren't out there at practice yelling 'we got to get over .500.'

"If all you talk about is your record, then your emphasis isn't on what it takes to win," Lynch said.

According to Lynch, lately that emphasis has been put on a couple of things in particular -- third down conversions, pass protection and defensive tackling.

Against Central Michigan Saturday, the Cardinals converted only two of 13 third down attempts. Lynch blamed the poor numbers partly on pass protection for quarterback Talmadge Hill.

Also against Central Mighigan, the Ball State defense gave up 272 yards rushing. According to the Cardinal coach it's just the simple things that are going wrong.

"From a defensive standpoint, we have to tackle better," Lynch said. "It's just like it was at the begining of the season, we are just missing tackles."

There is one particular aspect of Kent State's game that has Lynch a bit worried and that is their quarterback, Joshua Cribbs.

Last week, when Kent State faced Marshall, one of the teams tied for first in the MAC East, Cribbs threw the ball for 182 yards and ran the ball for 159 yards.

"Cribbs is very dynamic," Lynch said. "He is really fast, very athletic and very elusive. He creates a lot of problems for you defensivley. When he takes off, he goes.

"We have the mind set that he is going to make some plays. So when he does we just have to strap it up and play the next play."

One person Lynch is counting on to make plays on the Ball State offensive side of the ball is Merriweather.

"Marcus has played so well," Lynch said. "The thing about Marcus is that he is the kind of guy that gets better as the game goes on. He really wears on people. "

Kent State head coach Dean Pees realizes what a task it will be for his Golden Flashes to try to contain Merriweather.

"This guy is the second leading rusher," Pees said. "(He is) a big powerful runner that can run over you or run around you.

"(Ball State) is getting great production from the guys up front. As is usual if the running back is that good then the offensive line is pretty good."

One thing that will throw a twist into Saturday's game is the history between the two teams. There isn't any since 1996. That year was the last time Ball State and Kent State. But despte the lack of history or the lack of importance in the eyes of some, Bill Lynch stands behind his words saying, "there is plenty to play for."


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