Zipping It In Akron: Keys and Trends

By Nick Lawler

Ball State Sports Link

On Tuesday, the Ball State Cardinals travel to Akron with a chance to gain some footing in the the Mid-American Conference. Currently in a second place standoff with Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan, the Cardinals are in prime position to gain some momentum in a crowded MAC West.

The Zips are in the midst of a disappointing season, with only two wins under their belt thus far. With a trio of signal callers having to see meaningful snaps this year, Akron has very much looked out of sync at times.

Coming off a disappointing homecoming loss against Miami (OH) two Saturdays ago, Ball State will need to play a complete football game to get back on track, heading into the season’s last few weeks.

Take The Top Off

Against the RedHawks, the Cardinals were able to jump off to a hot start with a quick touchdown to Justin Hall. That drive included multiple pass attempts past the sticks, as Drew Plitt was able to lead his receivers to first downs and more.

As the game continued, the passing game faltered down the stretch. That aggressive nature is what makes the Cardinals so deadly through the air at times. Against an inferior opponent in Akron, Ball State should have plenty of opportunities to take the top off the defense.

Two weeks ago, Buffalo Bulls quarterback Kyle Vantrease was able to dial up five 20+ passes in route to a decisive 45-10 win. Going against a struggling secondary, Drew Plitt and company should be able to do much of the same.

Don’t Abandon The Ground Game

Often at times, Ball State has had strong performances on the ground, only to retreat back to a pass-heavy offense. With some strong performers in Carson Steele and Will Jones, it would only make sense to utilize them to their strengths. Although it’s worth noting Steele may miss some time due to an injury suffered against Miami (OH).

In their four wins, the Cardinals have ran the ball over 23 times per game, giving Steele and Jones plenty of opportunities to wear out the defense. Both of these backs are big, physical guys who can create a lot of opportunities for an offense.

Adding in a touch of the always dynamic Justin Hall is the finishing touch for this team. His speed and one-cut ability is unmatched in the MAC and gives the Cardinals an advantage over any opponent.

Make Akron One-Dimensional

As previously mentioned, Akron has had a revolving door at QB this season. With that in mind, the Zips have been forced to lean on their run game to make their offense run.

In their two wins, Akron has rushed for 167 yards per game, up over 40 yards from their season average of 123. Make no mistake, the Zips can make their presence met in the pass game, but the outcome of their games ride with their run game.

Luckily for the Ball State, the Cardinals welcomed back star linebacker Brandon Martin to the field against Miami. With a whole week of rest, Martin will be healthy and key to slowing down Akron.

“I love having [Brandon] out there. That guy just brings so much liveliness to anything,” fellow senior linebacker Jaylin Thomas said. “He’s been through a lot himself so its just great to always be next to him on that field, knowing what he’s about to put forth on that field.”

Author: Nick Lawler