By Craig Fields
Saturday – September 14 – 3 PM
TV: FOX Sports
Apogee Stadium – Denton
The Ball State Cardinals will walk into North Texas’ Apogee stadium 2-0 on Saturday. Although the Cardinals have yet to face a team on the road this season, they are ready to prove to their critics that they have what it takes to win away from Scheaumann Stadium. UNT, 1-0 at home this year, will attempt to go 2-0 at home and increase their overall record to 2-1.
The Cardinals defense who made Army turn the ball over three times last week, will be looking to pressure quarterback Derek Thompson into making bad mistakes. The Mean Green offense does not seemingly have enough explosive players to make the Cardinals defense slow down the rush and blitz tactics of their front seven. Derek Thompson will have to be mobile in the pocket and able to throw on the move.
The offensive line of the Mean Green will have to stand up and provide the necessary push for running backs, Antoinne Jimmerson and Brandin Byrd. At times these two players can find wiggle room to get out in the open and make guys miss. However, they do need that initial push from the line to make that happen.
The Cardinals offense, led by quarterback Keith Wenning will be looking to take advantage of big play opportunities early against a team that has allowed large plays of 70+ yards in both games this season. Wenning has passed for over 300 yards in his last two games so he should be looking to throw it early and often. It will be up to the Mean Green’s front seven to wreak havoc and cause offensive play miscues. Seniors Zachory Orr and Marcus Trice will have to be every bit as good as they can be to slow down this offense.
Coach Pete Lembo understands that this game will not be easy and that slowing down the running game of the Mean Green will be huge for the Cardinals. “North Texas’ identities on offense and defense fit together very nicely,” Lembo said in his press conference. “You look over to the offensive side of the ball and there is a mix of one- and two-backs. There is a power running game with play action. You can see the growth from last year to this year.”
While the rushing attack of the Cardinals will not necessarily overwhelm you with their talent, the quarterback, receiving core, and defense of this team can. All three of those were good enough to dominate a triple threat offense Army team by the score of 40-14.
“Everybody is keeping things inside and in front,” Lembo said. “It’s very hard to get explosive plays against them. They are a very physical team that is very much on the same page. It’ll be a huge challenge for us.”
This game puts me in mind of last week’s game when the Ohio Bobcats barely got the 27-21 win against the Mean Green. North Texas feels like they let one get away and I have an itching feeling that Coach Dan McCarney will not soon let that game be forgotten.
We will see when the Mean Green kick off on Saturday at 3 p.m.