FOOTBALL: Parrish expects special teams to be Ball State's "X-factor"

Cardinals will dig deeper into the playbook Saturday

Special teams were a focus for Ball State throughout the offseason, and coach Stan Parrish isn't changing that mindset now.

Parrish set a goal for the Cardinals to score or set up 14 points a game with their special teams. He gave the special teams credit for creating 10 points in Ball State's 27-10 victory against Southeast Missouri State on opening night. Though it fell short of his ambitious wish, Parrish said the unit met the rest of its goals.

"It was one of the few games, since I've been here, where we made every goal," he said. "Now we've got to do better."

Among the highlights for Parrish was punter Scott Kovanda's 50.3-yard average and Briggs Orsbon's blocked punt. Ian McGarvey kicked a pair of field goals and the kick coverage team made sure Southeast Missouri State didn't start a drive past its own 28-yard line excluding after Ball State's one turnover.

Parrish has emphasized special teams this year because he believes it can be the Cardinals' equalizer when they play better teams.

"It's got to be the X factor," he said. "If you don't turn the ball over and you've got good special teams, you've got a shot."

The cherry on top

Fans should expect to see a few of Parrish's tricks Saturday night against Liberty. He didn't dip far into his playbook against Southeast Missouri State, but that won't be the case this week.

"We stayed pretty vanilla," he said.

Parrish said the Cardinals only ran eight plays in the wildcat, a number he expects to increase. They only used two basic plays from the wildcat set.

Parrish said he wanted to throw out of the formation, something Ball State practiced a lot in the spring, but the opportunity never arose.

Liberty coach Danny Rocco said his team will have to be prepared for the wildcat.

"We're going to see it, no doubt, and we're probably going to see quite a bit of it," he said. "We'll have to be very much prepared for it, very disciplined in our assignments defensively when they do go to it, and we're going to have to have some better answers than we've had in the past, because we really haven't been able to control that system of offense."

Leading the way

Now that Orsbon is a junior, he's trying to help the younger players learn Ball State's offense. He remembers how valuable older receivers such as Dante Love and Louis Johnson were to him as a freshman and hopes to pass some of that knowledge on.

"I have a pretty good knowledge of the offense as a whole," he said. "I just point out little things that [wide receivers coach Joey] Lynch might not see. I can be another coach out there on the field."

It may have helped freshman Otis Brown last week. After redshirting last year, Brown made his debut against Southeast Missouri State and led the team with four receptions for 30 yards.