By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: What a difference one year can make. After soaring up the national polls in 2008, the Cardinals took a huge step backwards in 2009 under first year head coach Stan Parrish.
Ball State opened the year with a 20-10 setback to North Texas and the losing
did not stop there, as the Cardinals dropped six more matchups in a row. To
make matters worse, the Cardinals suffered four of those setbacks by seven
points or less. Ball State finally posted a victory when paired up against
Eastern Michigan in late October. The Cardinals needed 16 unanswered points
over the last seven minutes of the contest to earn the narrow 29-27 decision.
However, the victory did not build momentum, as the Cardinals fell in their
next three contests. Once again the margin of error was slim, as Ball State
lost by a combined nine points to Ohio and Northern Illinois. In their season
finale, the Cardinals used another late fourth quarter touchdown to steal a
victory, topping Western Michigan and giving Ball State a mere two-win season.
OFFENSE: After proving to be an offensive juggernaut in 2008, the Cardinals
were unable to repeat their success in 2009. However, coach Parrish has nine
starters returning this season, and plenty more players with game time
experience, so expect bigger and better things in 2010.
After posting inconsistent numbers in his first season under center, Kelly
Page will look to prove he is capable of leading this offense to new heights
in his sophomore campaign. Page seems fully healed from the broken thumb that
kept him off the field down the stretch last season, and will be eager to
reconnect with his top target Briggs Orsbon. Orsbon, who hauled 51 receptions
a year ago, will be the top receiving threat for coach Parrish this season,
but if that is to be the case, the junior wideout will have to definitely
improve on his one touchdown from a year ago. Adding depth will be Daniel
Ifft, who had saw his role increase towards the end of last year, and also
Torieal Gibson, but he will likely have to hold off impressive freshman Otis
With the return of all five starting linemen, the ground game should be an
even bigger success this season, especially since MiQuale Lewis was granted a
fifth year of eligibility. Lewis, who totaled over 2,000 yards and 22
touchdowns as a junior, hit a wall last season, rushing for just 871 yards,
but that was behind an inexperienced line, along with an inconsistent passing
attack. Look for Lewis to regain his status as one of the top backs in the
conference and just for good measure expect to see Cory Sykes and Eric
Williams help with some of the work load.
DEFENSE: Due to the offense's lack of consistency more of the stress to keep
the game close landed on the shoulders of the defensive players. Unfortunately
they were unable to keep up with the majority of the MAC.
The defensive backfield was the biggest problem a year ago, but coach Parrish
is hoping to see tremendous improvement after a year of experience. Sean
Baker, the 2008 Freshman of the Year, returns at safety with already 10
interceptions, giving the Cardinals a true ballhawk. The strength of this
unit could reside at the linebacker position, as Davyd Jones and Travis
Freeman return to the squad. Jones, who led the team with 100 tackles is a
menace on the outside, and Freeman proved quickly that he is capable of
leading the squad in the middle, and should be in for a stellar sophomore
The anchor of this unit is up front in defensive end Robert Eddins, who led
the team with seven sacks and 13.5 TFLs a year ago. Eddins should once again
be a disruptive cog on the front line for Ball State, and along with nose
tackle Rene Perry, this unit as a whole should be much more productive in
SPECIAL TEAMS: What will likely benefit the Cardinals this season will be
their special teams, which returns one of the top kicker/punter combos in the
conference. Ian McGarvey returns after connecting on 18-of-21 field goals,
including all five attempts from 40 yards and beyond. McGarvey, who holds the
school record with 81 straight extra points, will be joined by Scott Kovanda,
who averaged 40.0 yards per punt. Handling the return duties will likely be
Eric Williams and Charlie Todd. Williams was solid on kick returns, posting
23.9 ypr, while Todd took care of the punts a year ago, returning one for a
OUTLOOK: Last year the Cardinals were in a transition phase offensively, but
this time around the team should be better prepared for what goes on during
the rigors of a college football season.
"We got swept up in that magical season (2008) and maybe the goals were
unrealistic (for 2009)," said coach Parrish. "But we'll have a chance to get
back in the mix, because we gave some games away because of our youth. That
shouldn't happen this year."
The year starts off at home for the Cardinals with back-to-back matchups
against SE Missouri State and Liberty, but that is followed by the toughest
part of the schedule, three road contests against Purdue, Iowa and Central
Michigan. Inexperience and youth victimized the Cardinals last season, but
expect a much more mature and focused squad in 2010.