Two weeks ago Ball State offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky stood in a hotel conference room near Cleveland and lectured his group about not turning the ball over to Kent State, whom the Cardinals would be playing the next day.
The talk didn't work, as Ball State fumbled the ball away to the Golden Flashes on their opening drive.
One week later, Cardinal sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards, the guilty party at Kent State, committed the “Cardinal” sin of repeating his miscue against Northern Illinois last Saturday and was quickly relegated to the bench for the ensuing series.
Ball State (3-3, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) will host Western Michigan (3-3, 1-1) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“Turnovers are the number one thing we talk about,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. “Jahwan put the ball on the ground once all of last year, I guess he has three fumbles at this point this year, which are three too many.”
Statistically, Ball State has not been terrible in holding onto the football this season. The Cardinals are tied with Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) for fourth in the MAC in turnover margin (-1). Not great certainly, but nothing to cheer about either.
The Cardinals offensively have proven to be capable of hanging with any team (with the exception being Clemson) on its schedule. However, they have also shown defensively that they are unable to keep those teams from hanging with them. With such a slim margin for error, Lembo explained that turnovers will often be the critical difference between success or failure.
“If you are extremely talented,” Lembo explained, “far more talented than your opponent, it's easier to overcome turnovers. But where we are right now, we are going to be in a lot of close games. One or two turnovers can make a huge, huge difference.”
Ball State had done a nice job of taking care of the football prior to two weeks ago. However, against Kent State, the Cardinals fumbled the ball three times (losing one) and against the Huskies, quarterback Keith Wenning threw a pair of interceptions and Edwards had the aforementioned fumble.
“Our chances to win if we turn it over three times are very, very difficult,” Lembo said. “This year there is a very clear sign that the better job that we do of taking care of the football, the better off that we're going to be.”
Lembo wasn't singling out the fumbles as the only area of concern. Though Wenning's interception numbers (four) are actually pretty good if you take into account how much he has thrown the ball (265 attempts). But it has been the timing of those mistakes that Lembo is critical of.
“In a game like against Northern Illinois, you turn it over and the chances to win are reduced dramatically,” Lembo said.