BSU fans wanting free tickets to bowl game is ludicrous

With their beloved football team set to venture south for the Beef ‘O Brady’s bowl against Central Florida next week in St. Petersburg, Fla., Ball State students had the opportunity to purchase tickets for $20 as of Friday.

It’s a bargain for any college student seeking to spend a couple of days in one of the warmer climates of the country this time of year. And the atmosphere should be electric.

But the cries for free tickets have filled the air, and it’s making me sick to my stomach, honestly.

When news spread of Northern Illinois dishing out free tickets to students who are able to make the trip to Miami for the Discover Orange Bowl against ACC Champion Florida State on New Year’s Day, I could just imagine the immature, childish temper tantrums and grumbles coming from the Ball State fans.

Honestly, Ball State fans should be thankful they have a chance to purchase discounted tickets to the bowl game. I’m certain people will think there’s good reason to question Northern Illinois handing out free tickets to its bowl game, and how Ball State should do the same.

But Northern Illinois is playing in a BCS game. Ball State isn’t. And for good reason.

Unless you’ve been completely delusional this season, then you have no right to make such a drastic and downright foolish complaint about getting free tickets to a bowl game. First of all, students had their chance to get discounted tickets. Tickets don’t come much cheaper than $20, folks.

Here’s the generous deal Ball State athletics presented to its student body:  https://apps.bsu.edu/CommunicationsCenter/Story.aspx?MessageGuid=a220977d-d2cb-4205-9fbd-ef0e44e1386f

Take a look at the final note in italics: “Please Note: In the event that the minimum number of participants (36) has not been met by Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10 a.m., Ball State Athletics reserves the right to cancel the tour. Guests who reserved the bus trip will receive a full refund and will be notified via email.”

What a shame that would be for Ball State Athletics to cancel a bus tour they planned themselves because they failed to lure 36 students hope on board.

If you’re a Ball State football fan, then ask yourself this. Did I really give my best efforts to support my team this season? Did I rally behind my team when they lost to Clemson Sept. 8, Kent State, Sept. 29, or Northern Illinois Oct. 6? Did I make it a priority to show up at Scheumann Stadium for every one of Ball State’s five home games this season?

If you answer “yes” to these questions, then you are one of a small pool of true and loyal Ball State fans. I can imagine Ball State fans scowling at me for writing this post. But, hey, it’s the honest truth.

In 2012, Ball State had a combined 64,649 fans come through Scheumann Stadium, an average of 12,929 fans per game. That ranks 10th in the Mid-American Conference — ahead of first-year member UMASS (10,901/game), Akron (9,275/game) and Eastern Michigan (4,634/game).

That’s ridiculous, and embarrassing. So let me get this straight. Ball State fans don’t show up for home games, but want free tickets to the bowl game? Good heavens.

According an article by BleacherReport, Scheumann Stadium is the second-most least-feared college football stadium in the country. Hmm … I wonder why. Attendance wouldn’t have anything to do with it, right?

It’s sad, really. Ball State coach Pete Lembo turned in the best season (9-3) since the magical undefeated 2008 campaign and gets virtually zero support from the fan base. Yes, I realize Ball State is in the MAC and is considered a Mid-Major program. But that doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t show up, especially when their team is winning.

It’s a shame that Ball State has a chance to make history by winning its first-ever bowl game, and it appears the fans don’t want any part of it.

Oh well. Party on, Ball State.

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Backup quarterback lifted Ball State over Ohio on Senior Day

*Editor’s note: This is was a story I wrote earlier in the semester. Thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.

Prior to Ball State’s 52-27 rout over Ohio Nov. 14, Kelly Page saw the field one time.

He was a member of the hands team for an onside kick in what resulted in a 41-30 victory at Central Michigan, Oct. 20.

Page envisioned getting a few reps near the end of the game against the Bobcats, but never thought he’d be at the center of attention, much less bring Ball State (8-3, 5-2) back twice in a pivotal Mid-American Conference game.

“It went through my head, but nothing like this,” Page said.

After junior starting quarterback Keith Wenning caught a 17-yard pass on a trick play from wide receiver Jamill Smith, Wenning was tackled by a Bobcats’ defender and landed awkwardly on his right ankle. The injury sidelined him for the rest of the game.

In stepped Page – the senior backup quarterback – with less than five minutes remaining in what proved to be the biggest game of his life. On his first play from scrimmage, with Ohio clinging to a 17-14 lead, Page darted seven yards into the end zone, putting Ball State ahead 21-17 at halftime.

The play was one of many leading to the Cardinals’ noteworthy performance against one of the best defenses in the conference, and left Ball State coach Pete Lembo in awe.

“I’m just taken back by what an amazing story this is,” Lembo said. “What you just saw was pretty special.”

With Page set to direct the offense in the second half, Lembo said the offensive game plan wasn’t altered at halftime. Rather, Lembo felt like his team needed to run the ball more efficiently in the final two quarters.

“We needed to stay on the field, keep pounding (the running game) and try to maintain time of possession,” Lembo said. “Kelly ran the offense. He ran it well. (I’m) extremely proud of him.”

On Ohio’s opening drive of the second half, junior running back Beau Blankenship took the handoff from junior quarterback Tyler Tetleton and sprinted 58 yards into the end zone, giving the Bobcats a 24-21 advantage.

With his team trailing again, Page wasn’t rattled. Neither were the rest of the Cardinals – it took them just 40 seconds to respond.

Sophomore running back Jahwan Edward dashed 68 yards to the Ohio 3-yard line, setting up a three-yard touchdown pass from Page to junior tight end Zane Fakes, putting Ball State ahead 28-24. The scoring play was the first of two touchdown receptions for Fakes.

Ball State added a field goal from Steven Schott to widen the gap to 31-24 before Ohio converted a 34-yard field goal off the foot of pace kicker Matt Weller to narrow the deficit to 31-27. It was then when the Ball State defense put a stop to the Ohio running game.

After yielding 208 rushing yards through three quarters, Ball State senior linebacker Travis Freeman and the rest of the defense held Ohio to just 59 total yards and three points in the fourth quarter. Freeman said the ability to maintain Ohio’s explosive running game was all about having the right mindset to execute on defense.

“We put our foot in the ground and we (stopped) the run,” Freeman said. “Guys just wanted to get the job done and they did it.”

With the Ohio offense stuck in neutral, Ball State continued to dominate, scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including Page’s second touchdown pass to Fakes – this time for a 13-yard score, giving the Cardinals a 45-27 advantage. Another touchdown later and Ball State secured its fifth consecutive victory.

After the game, Page found his mother, Kim, in the stands and motioned her to come down to the field. The two hugged for a brief moment, bringing the Ball State quarterback to tears.

“My mother is my backbone,” Page said, fighting back the tears. “She’s had my back in everything that I’ve ever done. That moment was something that I’ll never forget.”

Neither will Ball State.

Lembo a candidate for Boston College

Earlier today, news spread surrounding Boston College’s coaching search. Boston College has trimmed its list of candidates down to three with hopes of announcing the heir to Frank Spaziani, who was canned after one of the worst seasons in program history.

According to ESPN.com, the final three candidates are Ball State’s Pete Lembo, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and New Orleans Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.

Diaco, who in my opinion, has to be the frontrunner for the job, is coming off a steller season with the top-ranked Irish, who will square off with No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami. Diaco’s defense is the No. 1 in the country in points allowed, averaging 10.3 per game. Notre Dame’s rushing defense is fourth-best in the nation, allowing just over 92 yards per game, while its passing defense is 21st in the country, yielding just over 192 yards per contest. Diaco is surrounded by extraordinary talent headlined by senior linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o, who amassed 103 tackles this season and seven interceptions, second-most in the country and tops for a linebacker.

In just two seasons, Lembo has brought Ball State back from the college football abyss, and turned it into a winner. After narrowly missing out on a bowl game with a 6-6 mark in 2011, Lembo headed Ball State to an unpredictable 9-3 record this season and a date with Central Florida of Conference USA in the Beef ‘O Brady bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Dec. 21. Lembo is 14-9 overall and 10-6 in Mid-American Conference contests as coach at Ball State and boasts the No. 1 recruiting class in the conference for next season.

Kromer is in the midst of his fifth season with Saints. He’s spent the last three seasons as the offensive line coach, while having served as an assistant coach in the NFL since 2000. Throughout his NFL tenure, Kromer has developed seven Pro Bowl offensive linemen, including three in 2011. The Saints have allowed just 70 sacks over the last three seasons, the third-fewest total in the NFL.

What this means for Ball State … 

Right now, it means very little. Obviously, I’m not going to make any rash judgments or predictions. The reality is Lembo is a candidate for the Boston College job, and he has a right to explore his options. Lembo is an East Coast guy, who graduated from Georgetown in 1992 before earning his M.A. at Albany in ’94. He coached at Elon and Lehigh. So, he’s got connections and is very familiar with that region of the country. I’m not saying Lembo will abandon what he’s already built at Ball State. But it’s certainly a possibility if not this year, then next year. Honestly, I don’t believe Lembo will take the BC job because there’s too many pieces already in place for Ball State  next season. Running backs Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks, along with quarterback Keith Wenning, tight end Zane Fakes and receivers Willie Snead and KeVonn Mabon will be returning in 2013. Win the Beef O’Brady’s bowl, mix in a possible MAC Championship and another bowl win, and Lembo could have himself quite the resumé this time next year.

As we wait for BC to announce its new coach, I’m sure most of us will be eying the newspaper headlines, Internet pages and Twitter vigorously in the coming few days.

Extra Points: Going Bowling

For weeks, the rumor mills were swirling, flinging as much feces against the wall in the hopes that Ball State’s resumé  would stick in the minds of the higher powers who send out numerous bowl game invitations to programs across the country.

The wait is officially over. Ball State will square off with Central Florida in the Beef ‘O Brady’s bowl on Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla. at 7:30 p.m. (EST). This game will cap an incredible season for Ball State sophomore coach Pete Lembo and his staff. With an overall mark of 9-3, and a 6-2 record in the Mid-American Conference, it would be unfathomable to leave Lembo and his program hanging out to dry during bowl season for the second consecutive season.

That said, here’s a quick scouting report on Central Florida… The Knights (9-4, 7-1 Conference USA) lost to Tulsa (10-3, 7-1) 33-27 in the C-USA Championship game on Saturday. The Knights have dropped two of their final three games this season, including a pair of losses to Tulsa. (Tulsa defeated UCF 23-21 on Nov. 17).

  • In terms of national rankings, UCF is 71st in passing yards, averaging 220 per game; 46th in rushing yards, averaging 178.7 per game; 27th in points for, 35.2 per game; and 29th in points against, 22.5 per game.
  • UCF claimed its fourth C-USA East division title this season since joining the league in 2005. This marks UCF’s second appearance in the Beef O’ Brady bowl.  UCF lost to Rutgers 45-24 in 2009. UCF will also be making its fifth appearance in a bowl game in its last eight seasons, all of which have come under the direction of coach George O’Leary, who is in the midst of his ninth season at the helm for the Knights. O’Leary is 111-88 as a head coach and is 3-5 in bowl games for his career.
  • Ball State and UCF have met three times, with the Cardinals owning  the 2-1 edge. Ball State defeated UCF 31-10 on Sept. 21, 1996 at Scheumann Stadium. Two years later, UCF defeated Ball State 37-14 at home. And in 2004, Ball State triumphed 21-17 at Scheumann Stadium, when both programs were members of the MAC
  • UCF boasts the second-best offense in C-USA, amassing 62 touchdowns and nine field goals this season. UCF is third in C-USA in rushing offense with 31 touchdowns and 4.79 yards per attempt.
  • The Knights are the fifth-best red-zone scoring offense in C-USA (47 scores on 56 attempts), and 45th nationally in that department.
  • Defensively, UCF has allowed the fewest points per game in C-USA (22.5), and passing yards allowed per game (217.8). Nationally, UCF is eighth in the nation in fewest penalties per game (4).

UCF isn’t just another game on the schedule for Ball State. UCF presents one final challenge for Lembo and Ball State. It will be a final opportunity for Ball State to rise up once again. It will be another chance for Lembo to bring this program into unprecedented territory. Amidst the hype and publicity, this bowl game is another opening for Ball State to shine–to put the finishing touch on this historical and unpredicted season.

Moving on … I had a chance to chat with athletic directer Bill Scholl Monday night, and in case some of you were curious (I was) as to whether Ball State received early invitations to other bowl games, Scholl provided an interesting response.

“It really doesn’t work that way,” Scholl said. “For the bowl games that don’t have automatic qualifiers, they kind of go one at a time. It’s more of a selection. Once they pick Ball State, they call us and invite us. We could say no, I guess, but we certainly wouldn’t do that. It’s not like we got invitations from three or four different bowls.”

When asked if he thought Ball State got snubbed from the bigger MAC tie-in bowls, Scholl said he was content on where Ball State ended up.

“The two division winners (Kent State and Northern Illinois) typically go,” he said. “We could certainly make a the argument that we finished third. I’m very comfortable with where we ended up. I think we ended up in a great spot.

Regarding the payout for the Beef ‘O Brady’s bowl, Scholl said “the payout was not really a factor.”

More from Scholl on Ball State heading to a bowl game:

“I think it’s a tremendous sign of how far our program has come,” he said. “I’m so happy for our student-athletes and our coaching staff. The student-athletes who have been here more so than the younger kids have been through a lot. To get it to 6-6 last year and actually be bowl eligible … and although they weren’t selected and then to take this step forward and be 9-3 and now be playing one of the best teams in Conference USA, I’m thrilled for them. I’m proud of how far they’ve brought the program in a very short period of time. I think it’s a great sign for our future.”

That’s all for now …

Thanks for reading.

-Poz