September is usually a kind month in Muncie. The September sun warmly welcomes Ball State students back from a long summer, creating an atmosphere that causes people to forget their worries.
For the Ball State football team, however, September has been less than friendly.
Bill Lynch's squad has not won a September football game in the 21st century. The Cardinals have gone 0 for their last 19 games in the month. The last Ball State win in September came in 1997 when the team beat James Madison University.
"One of our goals as a team is to win in September," Lynch said. "We are very aware of the fact we haven't played that well this month. But we've gotten to the point now where we just have to play better than Missouri does starting at six o'clock Saturday night."
The goal of Gary Pinkel's Missouri club, though, will be to keep Ball State's streak alive. Pinkel hopes to guide the Tigers to their second straight victory. Mizzou is coming off a big opening win against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Missouri, which finished last season with a 4-7 mark, never trailed the defending Big Ten champions last Saturday. The Tigers were led by redshirt freshman quarterback Brad Smith. Smith threw for 152 yards and ran for 138 more in his first game as a collegiate.
"When you have a quarterback that moves the way he does it adds another dimension," Lynch said. If the quarterback can tuck it and run, and he can run some counters and draws, that plays into the hand of the young offense."
Lynch said Ball State had problems with similar quarterbacks last season. Kent State quarterback Joshua Cribbs was one of those players.
"We've definitely got to tweak the defense," Lynch said. "He reminds me a little bit of the Cribbs kid from Kent State who ran wild against us a year ago."
Missouri's Smith was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week last week, and was also voted National Newcomer of the Week by ESPN.com.
"In the off-season [the Missouri staff] said the kid they had redshirting was going to be a special player," Lynch explained. "He is a guy you certainly have to account for."
Pinkel, however, pointed out that Smith's performance was only one game.
"I can't stress that enough," he said. "It was just one game. You don't build monuments after one game."
According to Lynch, the Ball State offense will also do their part to slow Missouri's offense.
"I would hope our offense can move the ball and try to keep their offense off the field," Lynch said. "That is easier said than done. I'm sure Illinois came in thinking they were going to do that, and they couldn't. "
Lynch said keys to Ball State's offense were getting running back Marcus Merriweather involved and controlling the line of scrimmage.
Saturday marks the first time Ball State has played Missouri in football, but it is not the first time the coaches have squared off. Pinkel coached for ten seasons at Toledo. His record against Lynch is four wins and two losses. His overall record against Ball State is 5-4-1.
Ball State did face Pinkel once in September of 1999. Toledo won that contest 23-10. Now, the Cardinals will look to avenge that loss and get the September monkey off their backs.