BY NICK LAWLER| Ball State Sports Link
After anticipating Ball State’s offense to have a big day in a key matchup against Northern Illinois last week, it was the defense that showed out in a big way.
Amechi Uzodinma II snatched Ball State’s first interception on the season and took it 71 yards across the field to pay dirt. It was BSU’s first touchdown on an interception return since Charlie Todd against Liberty in 2010
The front seven was ferocious against the run once again, allowing only 112 yards on the ground and forcing the Huskies to try to beat them through the air.
As the Cardinals head into this week’s matchup against the Toledo Rockets, the defense will once again be the key to victory.
Both teams enter Saturday’s matchup at 2-1 in league play and tied for second place in the division.
Ball State might have trouble moving the ball against the Rockets, as they are one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
Toledo ranks among the top 25 nationally in both total offense (504.7, 14th) and total defense (327.3, 21st). The Rockets are averaging 40.3 points and allowing only 24.
Linebacker Brandon Martin and the defense will have to give the offense as many opportunities as they can get.
Martin leads the MAC with 37 tackles and ranks seventh nationally with 12.3 per game, having registered more than 10 tackles each game.
No doubt it will be a tough task: Toledo’s offense is as effective as it is dynamic, and it will be up to the Cardinal’s defensive backfield to get the job done.
The Rockets have been aces through the air thus far and that is an area Ball State has struggled to defend, giving up almost 280 passing yards per game.
“Toledo is the best team we will have played to date,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “They’re playing at a high level offensively, they’re playing at a high level defensively, and they’re playing at a high level on special teams.”
However, the improvement was evident last week against Northern Illinois. While Ross Bowers had one of his better games as a Husky, there were signs of life in the Cardinal’s pass defense, namely the Uzodinma interception.
The pass rush had some good pressures and even came away with two sacks, including a half sack by Anthony Ekpe bringing his season total to two and a half.
Most importantly, they emerged when it mattered most, forcing two 3-and-outs in the third quarter, and stopping Northern Illinois from mounting any serious comebacks.
This ability to play their best at the biggest moments must carry over into Saturday’s contest if the Cardinals want to walk away 3-1.