FOOTBALL: Ball State prepares for tough conference battle

The Daily News

Running back Jahwan Edwards attempts to break away from Eastern Michigan University's Amos Houston Sept. 21, in Ypsilanti, Mich. Ball State won 51-20. DN PHOTO COREY OHLENKAMP
Running back Jahwan Edwards attempts to break away from Eastern Michigan University's Amos Houston Sept. 21, in Ypsilanti, Mich. Ball State won 51-20. DN PHOTO COREY OHLENKAMP

For a third-straight year under head coach Pete Lembo, the Ball State football team opened Mid-American Conference play with a win.

The 51-20 victory over Eastern Michigan will mean little, though, if Ball State is unable to repeat in this week’s game against Toledo.

The Cardinals (3-1) are set to host the Rockets (2-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be no lack of scoring when the pair of legitimate MAC-West title contenders square off.

Ball State and Toledo are explosive teams that look to be well-matched. After four games, Ball State leads the conference in scoring offense and pass offense.

Senior quarterback Keith Wenning, who passed for 317 yards on 17 completions last week, is tied for second in the country with 1,315 yards on the season.

“It’s a confidence builder,” Wenning said of his performance against Eastern Michigan. “We’re feeling good right now, but we know we’re not where we need to be, and we’re not satisfied with where we’re at, so we’ve got to get better each day.”

The team rushed the ball better Saturday as junior running back Jahwan Edwards returned from injury. He ran the ball 15 times for 81 yards and three touchdowns.

As a team, Ball State rushed the ball 37 times. The Cardinals utilized sophomore running back Horactio Banks in addition to Edwards.

Wenning hasn’t stopped looking toward junior wide receiver Willie Snead, though. The junior is third in the country with 480 receiving yards. The pair started hot in the season opener against Illinois State when Snead caught 9 passes for 164 yards.

Toledo has playmakers, too.

The Rockets have relied heavily on senior running back David Fluellen, who is coming off of a 197-yard performance against Central Michigan. He leads the MAC and is fourth in the country with 497 yards rushing this season.

As a team, Toledo is averaging 188 rushing yards per game. Though stopping the run will most likely be Ball State’s biggest concern, special teams will be key as well.

Led by senior wide receiver Bernard Reedy, Toledo can be dangerous on special teams. Reedy has returned eight kickoffs for 221 yards through four games.

Turnovers also have been a strong point for Ball State this year. After creating just 14 in 2012, the team has already created 10 this season. The Rockets created four turnovers just last week and scored a touchdown on one of them.

Playing a game with MAC-West implications is an afterthought for Lembo, who said the team will do what it does every week in preparation.

“When [Ball State] met as a team Sunday,” he said. “My two messages were ‘We have a home game this week,’ and ‘We need to have a good Tuesday practice.’”

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