FOOTBALL: Ball State not overlooking Southeast Missouri State

Cardinals ready to open season

The music will be cranked all the way up to rock Scheumann Stadium. The stands will be full of fans waiting expectantly, cheering for Ball State.

 

As the crowd reaches a crescendo, the Cardinals will run through the south end zone, a rushing river of red and white taking the field for the first time this season.

 

It's the moment they have been waiting more than eight months for. Eight long months to sit back and wonder what happened last fall, how Ball State could only win two games, how it could start the season with seven straight losses, how the fall from No. 12 in the country could happen so fast.

 

There will be no question of motivation, not after the way the Cardinals started last year. It won't matter that it's Southeast Missouri State, a Football Championship Subdivision also-ran, warming up across the field. It wouldn't matter if it were Muncie Central High School, because Ball State can't afford to overlook anyone right now.

 

"When you get off to a start like we did last year, if we look anywhere past Sept. 2, shame on us," coach Stan Parrish said in July. "And we won't. We won't."

 

Since getting off the bus after defeating Western Michigan 22-17 on Nov. 24, Ball State has focused on nothing but Southeast Missouri State and tonight's 7 p.m. kickoff.

 

Ball State is hoping to get off to a better start to this fall than last season. Expectations were much higher in 2009, but North Texas came to Muncie and spoiled the party with a 20-10 upset. Parrish is determined not to let that happen again.

 

"That's my job," he said. "We weren't ready opening night last year. We didn't play with the kind of execution we needed to play with."

 

The experience of going through a 2-10 season has helped the Cardinals. There were many young players in key positions last fall who are all better prepared.

 

Senior running back MiQuale Lewis said the Cardinals used their dismal record as motivation in the offseason. The drive to improve helped Ball State through difficult practices.

 

"I think this summer we worked extremely hard," Lewis said. "We can't go 2-10 again."

 

Southeast Missouri State also struggled last season. The Redhawks finished 2-9 and failed to win a road game.

 

Ball State lost its last game to a FCS team, falling 23-16 to New Hampshire in last season's second game. But Southeast Missouri State doesn't have a history of beating Football Bowl Subdivision teams like New Hampshire does. Southeast Missouri State is 1-14 against FBS teams, its only victory coming in 2002 at Middle Tennessee State.

 

None of that matters. All Ball State will allow itself to focus on is winning a game at home and starting this fall 1-0.

 

"A year ago, we really laid an egg on opening night," Parrish said. "It was really a poor start that kind of snowballed for us. Really, I don't think we've looked at anything but Southeast Missouri and winning at Scheumann Stadium, like we've become accustomed to."


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