BY MICK TIDROW | Sports Link GameDay TV Host | SL Radio on WCRD Sideline Reporter
Ball State Football (1-1) stays in Munice for the second home game of the 2017 season with Tennessee Tech (0-2) in town Saturday at Scheumann Stadium at 3 p.m.
Coming off an offensive outburst and 51-31 win to open the home portion of the season, the Cardinals used five touchdowns from its running backs to defeat the UAB Blazers. In its first win, Ball State produced three sacks and seven tackles for loss on defense.
On the other side, the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech seek their first win of the season. Tennessee Tech fell to Western Illinois, 41-14, in Week 1 and lost 27-14 at Kennesaw State in Week 2.
This is the first all-time meeting between the two teams and Ball State’s second consecutive season playing a team from the Ohio Valley Conference (FCS).
A win on Saturday would mark the third straight win over an OVC opponent since 2010, move the Cardinals to 2-0 at home for the first time since 2013 and give Ball State a 2-1 record for the third year in a row.
1. The nations leader is among us
Coming in to the season, it was well known what defensive linemen Anthony Winbush could do on the football field. However, this season he has plowed through offensive linemen at an impressive rate.
After 1.5 sacks Saturday against the Blazers — following three sacks to open the season in Illinois — Winbush leads the nation in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (7). The senior is one of 11 players in the county to have two forced fumbles on the season. Four players across the country are second behind Winbush with four sacks, led by Charles Wright of Vanderbilt, Austin Bryant of Clemson, Koron Crump of Arizona State, and Corey Thompson of LSU.
Not only is he chasing quarterbacks on the field this season, Winbush needs seven more sacks to tie the program’s career record of 25 held by current defensive line coach Keith McKenzie.
Winbush has already nabbed one MAC West Defensive Player of the Week Honor this season, with more surely on the way with the pace he is on.
2. Special teams gone wild
With a strong showing on special teams for the Cardinals against UAB, Malik Dunner, Devin Reece and David Moore all stood out with massive plays.
With a 14-point lead in the third quarter, the sophomore Dunner broke through for a 93-yard run on a kickoff for a touchdown. That play gave the Cardinals a 38-24 lead. It marked the first Ball State kickoff return for a score since former wide receiver KeVonn Mabon scampered 89 yards for a TD Oct. 24, 2015 against Central Michigan
Dunner, who has flashed his skill on the special teams unit in his short time at Ball State, recorded a blocked punt last season at Indiana.
Moore blocked a punt and Reece forced a fumble on a kickoff to conclude a strong week two of special teams play. Against Tennessee Tech, the Cardinals could once again turn to the special teams unit to perform at a high level to help jumpstart the team.
3. Newbies on the front line
Veterans Vinnie Palazeti and Kadin Booker have been on the Ball State roster for at least three years, but the other three starting linemen stand in their freshman or sophomore season.
Palazeti was selected as a candidate for the 2017 Wuerrfel Trophy. One of this year’s team captains, he has made 20 career starts on the offensive line.
Starting left tackle Kaleb Slaven is a redshirt freshman, while center Andrew Poenitsch and right guard Zac Ricketts are sophomores.
Since the injury to Alex Joss at Illinois, true freshman Curtis Blackwell from Uniondale, Ind., has seen action at right guard, splitting time with Ricketts.
4. Stand up, true freshmen
A revolving storyline for the Cardinals this season has been the true freshmen and the impact they have made. Two games in, there has been no disappointment from the new players on the block.
In fact, 21 freshmen have played — including 12 true freshmen — in Ball State’s first two games.
While upperclassmen James Gilbert holds down the top spot in the running game rotation, Caleb Huntley has made a name for himself.
With a body type some have compared to NFL great Jerome Bettis, (ironically, Huntley also wears the Bus’s No. 36) the freshman has produced two games of at least 45 yards on the ground. All of this done as the “third” back on the depth chart.
With a 52-yard break-away touchdown against UAB, Huntley finished with a team-high 89 yards on just 10 carries.
Fellow freshman Justin Hall on the offensive side of the football posted the best receiving day of any Cardinal. Hall corralled eight catches for 94 yards and added his first career touchdown.
Defensively, Bryce Cosby ended up with the most tackles against the Blazers with eight. Six of the tackles were solo. This comes on the heels of the season opener in which Cosby hauled in an interception, Ball State’s lone pick of the season.
So far, so good two games in for the freshmen.
Tennessee Tech vs. Ball State Notes
- The Golden Eagles average 14 points per game vs. Ball State’s 36
- Tennessee Tech has been penalized 11 times — Ball State is third in the country with six
- The Golden Eagles are yet to score a rushing touchdown on the season while the Cardinals scored four vs. UAB alone
- Ball State has converted eight of nine red zone attempts into touchdowns. Tennessee Tech is one of three in the red zone
For exclusive coverage of Ball State Football, tune in to Sports Link GameDay, presented by Stoops Buick GMC, at 2:25 p.m. on all SL social media platforms to preview the 3:05 pm kickoff.
SL GameDay will also stream live at halftime and an extended postgame show, featuring players, coaches and your live pass to Mike Neu’s press conference.