Ball State fans attending the Family Weekend football game will get a chance to watch one of the best pass rushers in the country.
Redshirt senior defensive end Anthony Winbush leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 4.5 sacks — including three in the season-opening loss at Illinois. His seven tackles for loss are also first in the nation.
“[My biggest strength is] just being consistent and not stopping my feet,” Winbush said. “Keep fighting to get to the quarterback. If I lose the first initial move, just keep working after that and it leads to something bigger.”
The Cardinals (1-1) expected their pass rush to be the defense’s strength entering the season, and so far they’re tied for 20th in the country with seven team sacks.
“Those guys just got a hunger to get after the quarterback, got a hunger to make plays,” defensive line coach Keith McKenzie said. “And they also know that they need to do their jobs in order for the defense as a whole to be successful.”
Ball State hosts Football Championship Subdivision team Tennessee Tech (0-2) this weekend after facing a pair of run-heavy offenses in Illinois and UAB. While the Golden Eagles offense seems to move the ball better through the air — they have 274.5 passing yards per game against just 61.5 rushing yards — Cardinals defensive coordinator David Elson said the numbers tell a different story.
“They’ve been behind in some games so I think their numbers are a little skewed,” Elson said. “It shows that they’re throwing it more, but I think they’re more of a balanced offense and if they watch our tape from last week they’re going to want to run the football at us because we didn’t defend it very well.”
Last week, Ball allowed 336 rushing yards in a 51-31 win against UAB, one week after holding Illinois to 71 yards on the ground.
“The most important thing is we just didn’t tackle as well as we did the week before,” Elson said. “We gave up 206 yards after contact. So that means we were there to make a tackle, and because we didn’t make tackles they gained 206 more yards. That’s something that, obviously, we’ve got to pay attention too.”
Even with Winbush’s speed off the edge, McKenzie said the interior linemen were getting double-teamed by UAB’s offensive line. Senior defensive tackle Kevin Willis, who recorded a sack against UAB, said controlling the line should help put the linebackers in a better position to make the initial tackle.
“Double-teams, it’s not easy for D-lineman,” Willis said. “But if you just stay strong in there, stay square and fight, you can free up a lot more space for our other defensive players to get in there and get a tackle.”
Still, Tennessee Tech’s quarterbacks have been sacked five times in two games against other FCS schools.
As for WInbush, he’s not really concerned with where his sack total puts him on the leaderboards — even if it is at the top.
“It really doesn’t mean that much just because we’ve still got 10 more games to play and anything can change in a heartbeat,” Winbush said. “So we’re just staying focused on team goals.”
Ball State hosts Tennessee Tech at 3 p.m. Saturday,