Teams: there are a lot of them. In our effort to bring you the finest "bullshit" coverage of college football, our Visiting Lecturer Series today welcomes Ball State fan and longtime EDSBS commenter Papa Lou B.S.U., who has for over two decades bravely downed a shot and stuck his head in the sweet guillotine of Ball State fandom. Enjoy.
One: what color is your season? In other words, please explain the metaphorical state of your program through the metaphor of color:
Sky blue… as in boundless, ridiculous optimism. It’s rare that a single 7-5 season and three-touchdown bowl loss will have that effect on a fan base. But the first winning season since Bob Dole was a presidential candidate will do that, as will returning all 11 starters on a high-powered offense, along with seven starters on defense. We’re only eight years removed from the true national laughingstock status of a 21-game losing skid (including a 76-0 thrashing at the hands of Kansas State), and we’re only three years removed from a textbook scandal that saw 15 starters sitting out the first four games of the season as we got beat by a combined 157-0 by Iowa, Auburn and Boston College to start the campaign. So you’ll have to forgive us if we’re all a bit “giggly” right now over Coach Brady Hoke’s squad, as Lou Piniella might say.
Two: What historical nation and period do you resemble most right now?
Luxembourg, 20th Century.
Surrounded on three sides by more glamorous (and occasionally hostile and invading) neighbors, we nevertheless seek out our own niche, develop our own, smaller army and consume more alcohol per capita than the rest of the region (statistical anomaly or no). Sure, we’re likely to be overwhelmed by a larger nation with greater resources at some point, but we’ll put out an eye or two along the way.
The entire country of Luxembourg in one photo. Trust us, it's all there.
Three: You have important players. Discuss a few of them hastily.
QB Nate Davis. Obviously. Landed in Muncie despite big-time h.s. credentials in Ohio, in large part due to OC Stan Parrish’s guile and a rare Jim Tressel brain cramp (Sweatervest reportedly wanted him to switch positions if he was offered a spot in Columbus). Easily the most talented quarterback in school history. Put simply, we’re going as far as his arm can take us. No pressure or anything, kid.
WR Dante Love: Largely passed over by BCS programs because of his 5-9 stature, Love is Davis’ favorite target and the team’s most versatile weapon (he’s often used as a slot back, returns kicks with reckless abandon, and occasionally lines up to take a direct snap from center… the latter a play we’re hoping Parrish will mothball this year, as it’s been well-scouted out by now and only resulted in near-decapitation of young Dante by the middle of last season). But what sets Love apart is his speed – holy-bejeezus, cheetah-on-greenies, afterburner-like speed. His jets have leveled the playing field for us against more than one higher-profile opponent and prevent them from simply selling out against our passing attack. Davis is the field general, but Love’s the heart of the team, no pun intended.
LB Wendell Brown: While some Cardinal backers are probably surprised to see me bypass our 6-6 tight end (and our most NFL-ready player, if the human hair helmet known as Mel Kiper is to be believed), Darius Hill, for this choice, it’s not done without rationale. Brown, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle (an injury every bit as painful as it sounds, apparently), was coming into his own at the end of the ’06 season, including a monster game against Michigan at the Big House. The BSU defense was laughably inept at stopping the run last year, and if the Cards are going to make the leap from good 7-5 bowl team to potentially great, nationally-ranked team this season, that has to change. Brown will be a key factor thereabouts.
Google image search result #9 for "ball state."
Four: Name two games we might actually want to watch featuring your team.
Vs. Navy (Sept. 5): It’s the nationally-televised Friday night game on ESPN, and we’re playing a service academy, so you’ll watch out of patriotism, and out of the curiosity of two wildly contrasting offensive styles (Navy’s methodical ground game vs. Ball State’s wide-open, anything-goes air attack). Last year’s game was pretty good, too, with Ball State winning in OT in Annapolis thanks to a blocked kick by our 32-year-old (that’s no typo, thirty-two) defensive end Brandon Crawford, a Marine veteran. Finally, any chance to see one of the smallest stadiums in Division I-A rocking shan’t be missed. That’s twenty-three-five all loud and up in yo’ grill, lawya!
At Central Michigan (Nov. 19): Last year’s contest featured 96 points, 1,027 yards of total offense and about a dozen cheap shots on both sides. And that was a three-TD win for CMU played in front of a sleepy crowd of about 10,000 at 11 a.m. Put the rematch under the lights, on national TV in front of a likely full house in Mount Pleasant, and let’s just say the “Q” value of this one rises a few points. I make no predictions other than “wildly entertaining with more fireworks than your drunk, redneck neighbor shot into your yard last weekend.” That is, unless we’re still unable to stop that little play-action QB draw that the Chippewas ran successfully about 32 times in their beatdown of us last year.
Four-A: Save us all some time and mention the game we’re better off NOT watching.
Vs. Northeastern (Aug. 28): Hopefully, we’ve finally moved past our propensity to lay eggs against 1-AA squads (our 2006 loss to North Dakota State was our third loss to a squad from the 63-scholarship division since 2000). Either way, it won’t be worth your time. Like this would be televised anyways.
Five: Every hero forgets something in their toolbelt. What does your team lack?
Our offense looks to be okay, a veteran O-line, great talent at the skill positions. Our RB corps are a question mark, largely because they were decimated by injuries last year, but if fully recovered, should be a strength. Our areas of need are, as mentioned above, on defense. A run-stuffing DL, to be exact. And while our secondary is fast, they are undersized, which led to getting burned over the top a lot last season.
Six: Describe your team with a Jimmy Buffett song. No, we’re serious–do it.
I know all of three Buffett songs, and none of them are appropriate to this team. So I’m going to offer lyrics by the greatest band in rock history, The Replacements. I chose “Here Comes a Regular,” from the band’s underrated 1985 masterpiece album, Tim. MMMM. Dirge-y!---Ed.
The lyrics fit perfectly… depressing, like the Muncie economy, and betraying a world-weariness that has seen much heartache (and lousy attendance) over the years. But with a glimpse of hope that something better is on the way. Plus, it’s about drinking. Which Ball Staters enjoy. A lot.
“And everybody wants to be special here
They call your name out loud and clear
Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one here today?
Well a drinkin' buddy that's bound to another town
Once the police made you go away
And even if you're in the arms of someone's baby now
I'll take a great big whiskey to ya anyway…”
What’s that? You’re forcing me to pick a Buffett song? Aw, hell. Okay. Let’s go with “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw.” Because we’re BALL State, get it? Yeah, me neither.
Seven: We’re master wagerers. Give us a bet to place for up to ten dollars about your team.
The heart wants to declare “11-1, a Top 25 ranking, MAC Championship and being the non-BCS ‘it’ team of 2008,” all topped with a set of jazz hands. (Growing up to be 2006 Boise State is what all non-BCS teams aspire to these days. Hey, it beats realizing you’re living off the mad coin that ten-buck single game tickets provide… dolla-dolla bill, y’all.) However, the brain says 9-3 or 8-4, due to our stunning ability to kick away two or three games per year that we shouldn’t. And as much as I’d like to proclaim this as the year that we finally vanquish That School in Bloomington, we always seem to gag mightily when facing Indiana, and thus, I’ve graduated to the “prove it to me, boys” stage before I’ll feel anything resembling confidence about that contest. Unfortunately, Indiana and Navy are our only non-conference tests of note this season, thanks to Purdue postponing a scheduled game to 2010, so there will be no national ESPN cut-ins to us scaring the holy hell out of a ranked powerhouse in our non-conference games, as happened during our visit to Ann Arbor in 2006 and our trip to Lincoln last year. If all key players remain healthy, however, there’s no reason this squad shouldn’t repeat as one of the MAC’s bowl entrants.
In fact, it’ll be a grand disappointment if they don’t. Even if we’re kinda used to that.
Superb work, Papa Lou. For further reading on Ball State, we recommend BSUFans.com for further information on Ball State football as well as classic Midwestern drink recipes.