This is something I started doing this year is to cover my thoughts on the performance of the offense and defense in a more detailed way than I have previously and separate from the game recap. Here’s my takeaways from the offense’s performance against Toledo:
- Alan at Over the Pylon and several others early on stated they felt this team could run the table in the MAC and repeat the historic 2008 season. I held off on being quite that enthusiastic, and I still don’t think the Cardinals will be undefeated in MAC play, but it’s clear that the defense has stepped up this season to give the team a very strong chance of being MAC West champions.
- One reason the defense is doing so well is due to forcing turnovers at a much higher rate than last season. Last year, Ball State forced 14 turnovers, tying for 107th in the country. This year, they have almost matched that total in five games and their 12 turnovers are tied for 10th-best in the country.
- I thought the defense did a great job on Saturday. The secondary held Bernard Reedy in check and although Alonzo Russell and David Fluellen had big days catching the ball and running the ball respectively, the defense was able to tighten up when it needed to the most.
- Kenneth Lee was one of two backups that were inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday and he played almost the entire game. Lee was a starter last season until the Cardinals switched to the nickel defense as their base defense; although he has rotated onto the field and received playing time this year, he lost out to Chris Calloway to be the starter at the hybrid linebacker/nickel back position. Like you would hope a senior, veteran player would do, he stepped up in a big way and was a playmaker all over the field.
- Dae’Shaun Hurley was the other backup to step into the starting lineup at safety, replacing Martez Hester who was out with an ankle injury. Forget it being his first start, it was also his first time ever receiving extended playing time, and he played very well. He finished the game with nine tackles, prevented Alonzo Russell from making a reception on Toledo’s second fourth down conversion attempt to seal the victory, and was invited by Coach Lembo to participate in the post-game press conference, not a bad day’s work for you first start!
- It was a quiet day statistically from defensive tackles Joel Cox and Nathan Ollie, but the stat book rarely tells the true story of how well a defensive tackle played. One defensive lineman who did fill the stat book was defensive end Jonathan Newsome, who had seven tackles on the day.
- Another reason the defense has played as well as it has is due to the play of linebackers Ben Ingle and Zack Ryan. The two young linebackers continue to fill the stat sheet each and every game and have done a good job of filling the shoes left by Travis Freeman and Tony Martin.
- Brian Jones lost his starting safety job last season, barring injury there is no way he’s going to exit the starting lineup this year. He had another solid day Saturday, leading the team with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.