The Ball State running game has excelled this season, averaging over 230 yards per game through four games.

Running the ball takes a team effort, but the Cardinals' attack has been ignited by two players. Head coach Pete Lembo does not "talk in absolutes or extremes," but said it all starts with two players.

Lembo called on Jacob Richard and Darian Green as players who have carried the offense so far this season.

Ball State - Rushing yards by game

Sept. 3 vs. VMI - 229 yards

Sept. 12 at Texas A&M - 240 yards

Sept. 19 at Eastern Michigan - 278 yards

Sept. 26 at Northwestern - 181 yards

“I think if you ask most people and if you ask me, 'Tell me who the best football player is on your team,' I'd say Jacob Richard,” Lembo said. “You wanna talk about master of your craft, he is a master of his craft.”

Richard was a walk-on at Ball State, but hard work has propelled him into a spot as one of the top centers in the Mid-American Conference and the country. He has made 29 consecutive starts at center for the Cardinals.

Lembo trusts him as the decision-maker in the trenches and called him mature beyond his years. He's on the Rimington Award fall watch list, which is given annually to the nation's top center. He is also on the Vince Lombardi Award watch list for the top lineman in the country.

"The last 4-and-a-half years around him, I can't remember a bad day. I really can't," Lembo said. "He just embodies everything we want a player in our program to be. How he lives his life on the field and off the field."

Richard, a fifth-year senior, has spent a lot of time in the Cardinals' program. The man he blocks for, Darian Green, is just a sophomore. But Lembo said Green is well on his way to becoming a master as well.

“He's a student of the game," Lembo said. "He's trying really hard to become the master of his craft. That's why he's having such a terrific year.”

Green has 57 carries for 402 yards and five total touchdowns this season. He ranks eighth in the nation in yards per carry among players with at least 50 attempts.

Ball State's backfield was a little cloudy coming into the season after the loss of all-time leading rusher Jahwan Edwards. But Green is on pace for over 1,200 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns for the season while sharing carries with freshman James Gilbert.

Lembo attriubutes Green's success to his hard work and dedication. But he also praises Green as a person.

“[Green] is a tremendous person, first of all,” Lembo said. “The biggest part to me is that he's a tremendous person and that he shows up every day really focused and really determined to get better.”

Against a top defense in No. 17 Northwestern last week, Green and the Cardinals gained 181 rushing yards, the most the Wildcats have allowed this season.

Up next is the Toledo defense, which is allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game coming in. 

Richard and Green, master and student of their respective crafts, will look to continue to carry an offense averaging 27.7 points per game with the potential to grow even more.