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Ball State offense may meet its match in Virginia defense

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For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010.

Cardinals and Cavs excel in opposite areas

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 5:07 pm

If nothing else, Ball State football fans can boast that their favorite squad can score points. In bunches.

The Cardinals are just one touchdown shy of being the most prolific in program history at this point in the season, and Virginia coach Mike London is well aware of that.

“Ball State is an excellent team, they’re 4-1,” London said. “They put up a lot of numbers on some of the teams they played, 50 points, 40 points; our best effort is going to be needed regardless of where we are at this stage in the season.”

Ball State will travel to Virginia (2-2) on Saturday (noon, Fox Sports Net).

The Cardinals have “put up a lot of numbers” this season. They’ve scored 51 points on two occasions (against Illinois State and at Eastern Michigan), and they rank 27th in the country in scoring offense.

However, if there is a team that is geared to slow a potent offense down, it is the Cavaliers.

“I looked at (Virginia’s) stats and I had to do a double-take,” Cardinal coach Pete Lembo said. “When I looked at the total defense (allowed), the first digit was a two.”

Virginia is holding opponents to fewer than 300 yards per game (299.3 yards allowed), which ranks 16th in the country. And that includes having played the nation’s third-most explosive offense (Oregon).

“In college football nowadays, it is very, very rare to see a team whose total defense is giving up less than 300 yards per game,” Lembo explained. “It’s almost unheard of anymore.”

Just how are the Cavaliers doing that? Lembo said that there are several reasons, but that it begins up front.

“I’ve watched a lot of video of these guys and this defensive line is really impressive,” Lembo said. “They are going to be very difficult to block. They are as good of a unit that we’ve faced since I’ve been (at Ball State).”

However, one thing that Ball State has going in its favor is the fact that as intimidating as Virginia is defensively, that’s how inept that it’s been offensively.

Virginia is averaging just over 20 points per game, which is what Ball State averages each half.

“It’s disappointing about where we are,” London said. “The facts and the statistics don’t lie about that part of it.

“This is a new system. It is a new scheme you try to get acclimated to in the spring, in the August days of practice, as we’re going into the fourth game.

“We want to see production. We want to see improvement because you see it defensively. You see a new scheme that’s being played, that’s being executed well right now. So there is a level of disappointment with the new offensive scheme that’s not as productive, is not showing the type of production that it needs to help us particularly with the pass game…

“The changes, the fixes, the things that we’re doing, are all addressed to make sure we can be productive.”

The Cavaliers have done two things well in order to keep themselves competitive, according to Lembo. Aside from defending, they have also punted the ball well, which allows them to control field position. London believes that playing a cleaner game – coupled with that staunch defense – will give his team an opportunity for success on Saturday.

“If you play good defense, you have a chance to win as long as you can hang onto the football,” London said. “Again, turnovers being the issue – we turned the ball over twice (in a recent 14-3 loss to Pitt), one on the snap, then one on the muff, on the punt.

“If you cut back on those things, you’re going to have some drops sometimes in games, but you can’t have 10 drops in a game. If you eliminate those things, we feel it can give us a better chance of being more representative of how this team can play.”