FOOTBALL: Ball State ready for another ranked FCS opponent

Cardinals hope to start season 2-0

A nationally-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team will visit Scheumann Stadium on Saturday night in the second week of Ball State's season.

This happened last year to the Cardinals as well. It didn't go quite as they hoped.

A year ago, No. 8 New Hampshire upset Ball State 23-16. It was just the second of the Cardinals' seven straight losses to open the season, but it may have been one of the hardest for them to swallow.

With that memory so fresh in their minds, Stan Parrish doesn't think his team will have a tough time focusing on its game against No. 18 Liberty at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"When our guys look at [Liberty] on tape, I think it's a lot different than if you're coming off a big, big season," he said. "We're still in the rebuilding stage to get back in the MAC race this year."

The Flames are expected to be a good test for the Cardinals. Liberty won its season opener against St. Francis (Pa.) 52-7 and Parrish thinks it could compete well in the Mid-American Conference.

He also heaped lavish praise on quarterback Mike Brown, calling him the best signal-caller Ball State will face this year, including Purdue's Robert Marve and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

"[Brown] can do everything," Parrish said. "If he doesn't get hurt, he can lead [the FCS] in throwing I think."

Brown was the Big South Offensive Player of the Year in 2009, playing mostly wide receiver. The junior has switched to quarterback, where he is a threat to throw and run. According to Parrish, Brown will look to throw first, but can still beat teams with his speed.

He carved up St. Francis last week throwing for 338 yards and four touchdowns. Brown and the Flames wide receivers are expected to provide a serious test to the Cardinals secondary, which didn't have to defend many passes Opening Night.

Parrish hopes Ball State's practice style of pitting the first team offense and defense against each other will help the secondary. But what really would help is if Brown didn't have time to stand in the pocket and read the defense.

"If you let this guy stand back there, he's going to complete some balls," Parrish said.

Liberty coach Danny Rocco, meanwhile, knows his team won't be facing the same Ball State team that New Hampshire upset last season.

"They have new energy and they have new enthusiasm," he said. "I think some people will say, ‘Well, they're down, they only won two games,' as if they're not looking to rebound."