CHIRP: The Edge - Ball State vs. Liberty

Quarterback

Ball State – The position continues to be a question mark for the Cardinals. Kelly Page earned his first victory last week but didn't inspire confidence in coach Stan Parrish. Backup Keith Wenning played in mop-up time but wasn't allowed to throw a pass. Both will play again this week and both will need to show improvement.

Liberty – Parrish heaped lavish praise on Flames starter Mike Brown, calling him the best quarterback the Cardinals will face this season. Some people heard that and immediately wondered what happened to Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Parrish held his ground, saying the Hawkeyes are at their best running the football.

Advantage – Flames – I'm inclined to believe Parrish. Brown was the Big South Player of the Year last year and had a good first week. Also, Parrish's career has been built on his knowledge of quarterbacks. So when he says Brown is the best quarterback Ball State will face this year, I'm listening.

Running backs

Ball State – It's still Ball State's strongest position. Eric Williams posted his first 100-yard game and Cory Sykes added 70 yards and two touchdowns. MiQuale Lewis did the dirty work for the Cardinals and freshman David Brown looked impressive late in the game.

Liberty – Brown is the Flames' leading returning rusher. SirChauncey Holloway is the leading returning running back for Liberty. Holloway gained 285 yards in 54 attempts last year and scored seven touchdowns. Holloway rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown in Liberty's opener, though its leading rusher was Chase Barnett with 56 yards.

Advantage - Cardinals - Ball State is going to win games based on how well it can run the ball this season. The running backs all performed as expected last week and will be counted on again Saturday.

Wide receivers

Ball State – Despite Page's struggles, it was still a good night for the Cardinals' receivers. Freshman Otis Brown showed his speed with four catches for 30 yards. Briggs Orsbon didn't catch a pass, but Parrish is committed to changing that.

Liberty – Brown was Liberty's leading receiver last year with 698 yards. But he's the one making the throws this year instead of catching them. He has Chris Summers back and found him for 129 yards and two touchdowns last week. B.J. Hayes and Pat Kelly also had 100-yard games against St. Francis and Kyle Dermon had two touchdowns.

Advantage - Cardinals - Liberty's receivers are fairly inexperienced. As big as their numbers were last week, it came against St. Francis, so they should be taken with a grain of salt. Ball State's receivers are talented, but it remains to be seen if Page can get them the ball when they're open.

Linebackers

Ball State - As expected, Ball State's linebackers had a good night against Southeast Missouri State. Travis Freeman had six tackles and a pass breakup to lead the group. Davyd Jones and Tony Martin each made five tackles. Jones said he could have played better against the Redhawks and will need to elevate his game Saturday. Theon Dixon was a nonfactor last week, something he surely wants to improve on.

Liberty - Chad Brown, Kyle O'Donnell and Doncel Bolt each made five tackles last week. Bolt was one of the Flames' key players last season. He was second on the team in tackles and was tied for the team lead with a pair of sacks.

Advantage - Cardinals - Ball State's linebackers have a lot of experience. If Jones makes the improvements he wants to this week, it will go a long way to helping the Cardinals defense make the stops it needs to.

Secondary

Ball State - Sean Baker had the best game of any Cardinals defender, leading the team with 12 tackles, forcing a fumble and recording Ball State's only sack. Jason Pinkston also had a big game, but the defensive backs were largely untested by Southeast Missouri State. How they respond to facing the best quarterback of the year is this game's biggest unknown.

Liberty - The Flames defense was bolstered last week by freshman Chris Mayo. He led the team with 10 tackles in his collegiate debut. Danny Broggin snagged an interception and made five tackles. Brandon Robinson added five tackles and a pass breakup.

Advantage - Flames - Ball State's secondary is just too much of a question mark. Especially with safety Josh Howard out this week, how they respond to facing a quarterback like Brown isn't clear.


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