FOOTBALL: Ball State hopes to defend Bronze Stalk trophy tonight at Northern Illinois

Opposing QB unknown for Ball State in a game televised on ESPNU

The starting quarterback Thursday night for Northern Illinois University is unknown, but Ball State University won't be changing their approach no matter who is under center. 

Sophomore Chandler Harnish returned to practice this week after missing the last three games with a knee injury. Fellow sophomore DeMarcus Grady has started in Harnish's place and is 3-0 as a starter.

"We have to stay aggressive," defensive end Brandon Crawford said. "Whoever's back there, we can't take him lightly."

Crawford said the Cardinals would have to be prepared for potential changes in the Huskies' game plan depending on who started.

"There might be some plays they throw in that they can't do with that quarterback, that they do with the other one" Crawford said. "We might have to change things around and adjust on the fly."

No matter who Northern Illinois' quarterback is, Ball State knows it will have to defend the run. The Huskies are first in the Mid-American Conference with 229.6 rushing yards per game. They are led by junior Chad Spann who has 767 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

Northern Illinois also defends the run well. It allows just 104.2 rushing yards per game, the best in the conference. Ball State has the fourth-best rushing offense in the MAC, but coach Stan Parrish knows his team needs to utilize the pass better.

"We're not going to be a passing team," Parrish said. "We've got to manufacture some stuff. We are what we are at this stage."

Ball State believes that Northern Illinois is closely related to Temple University. The Owls were very successful in containing the Cardinals' ground game, allowing only 53 rushing yards in Philadelphia. Since that game, Ball State has relied more on the wildcat formation and is averaging more than 300 rushing yards per game.

"Nobody thought you could do that stuff in the NFL," Parrish said. "It creates indecision with the defense."

The Cardinals have only recently started running the wildcat, but their success has not gone unnoticed.

"Everybody now identifies us with the wildcat," Parrish said. "I'm still learning."

The exposure for Ball State's new rushing attack will be greater for the final three games of the season, all of which will be broadcast on national TV. Parrish hopes the bright lights bring added pressure to the Cardinals.

"A lot of the young guys came here to play on TV," Parrish said. "I think they'll be excited, it puts a little pressure on you."


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