Amid what Ball State football coach Pete Lembo termed “one of the worst performances since I've been here” in a 45-43 loss at Kent State on Saturday, were actually a few bright spots that Cardinal fans can cling to.
Check that, according to Lembo there were “a lot of bright spots in that game.”
“(The media) has been asking to see this prolific passing offense,” Lembo said, “well, now you got to see it.”
While true the Ball State defense gave up 461 yards and five touchdowns to the Golden Flashes, the Cardinals in response racked up 445 yards through the air. For that effort, both quarterback Keith Wenning and wide receiver Willie Snead were honored this week.
Wenning (32 of 43 and five touchdowns) was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week for the second straight week. And in the case of Snead, the sophomore was named Tuesday to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, which goes to the nation's top collegiate wide receiver.
“Willie is a passionate guy who loves the game,” Lembo said recently. “He is a very competitive guy with a great work ethic. He is one of those guys that just lives (football).”
Two weeks ago, Snead not only torched the South Florida defense for 11 receptions, his toe-tapping grab on a fade route to the corner in the final minute, where he not only had to concentrate on the ball and catch it, but also get at least a toe in bounds as he was hawked by a Bull defender, was one of the finest catches in college football this season.
“He's a really nice guy off of the field,” Lembo said. “But when he puts that helmet on and buckles up, he wants to go out there and compete. And it really doesn't matter who is across from him, he wants to win.”
Against Kent State, Snead set career highs with 14 catches and 216 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. The 14 catches tied for the second-most in a single game in Ball State history, while his 216 receiving yards rank as the fifth-best all-time single game performance in Cardinals history.
“(Offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky) called good plays to put me in position to make plays,” Snead said. “When I'm in positions like that, I just have to make the catch and hopefully I can run after the catch and do something with it.”
In 11 games as a true freshman a year ago, Snead caught a pair of touchdowns, but matched that total on Saturday alone. He has already soared past last season's totals of 28 catches (41 this year) for 327 yards (537 this season) and has four touchdowns in five games thus far.
Even though he has dramatically improved his production, Lembo said that being satisfied isn't in Snead's mindset.
“He is hard on himself, but not to a point where it is going to disaffect him,” Lembo said. “Willie likes to challenge himself. When I ask guys to fill out goals every year, Willie's goals are always right out there. He's ready to challenge himself and challenge his teammates.”
The Biletnikoff Award is presented annually by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation. Voting by the Biletnikoff Award National Selection Committee will determine the 10 semifinalists Nov. 12.
Snead is the first Ball State wide receiver named to the Biletnikoff Watch List since Dante Ridgeway was selected as one of three award finalists for the honor in 2004. The three finalists appear on the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Dec. 6.