As Oklahoma nears its kickoff with the Ball State Cardinals we are doing everything we can to bring you some of the best coverage on the web. To help us learn more about the Cardinals and understand a little about their game plan against Oklahoma is Alan Rucker form the Ball State football blog, Over The Pylon.
They'll have the other half of the Q&A posted over there so make sure to show some love and check it out.
CCM: One of the first things that I noticed about quarterback Keith Winning is that he takes care of the football. He has 7 touchdowns to 0 interceptions so far on the season. Tell us a little about his game and what Sooner fans should expect to see for Ball State's signal caller.
AR: So far this year, Keith has taken exactly what the defense has given him. Having said that, though, his only other game against stellar competition (USF) wasn't nearly as productive as the games against IU, Buffalo, and Army. Keith has never faced competition the likes of OU, so his work is cut out for him, but if Oklahoma just drops back in coverage without pressure, he may be able to take advantage of the openings in the defense. For Wenning, he's capable of running a short-route focused attack, or throwing deep and connecting. It really all depends on what the defense gives him, assuming the Sooner defense gives him anything at all.
CCM: Winning is also completing 73% of his passes on the year. Tell us about the guys who are catching his passes.
AR: Unlike many of OU's opponents, BSU doesn't have tall and fast receivers, but they do have fast receivers and tall receivers, unfortunately, those are just different folks. Guys like Briggs Orsbon and Zane Fakes are great possession guys if given the space and guys like Willie Snead, Tori Gibson and Jamill Smith are our speedsters who can also catch the ball when open. It's safe to say that the talent in the OU secondary is far greater than the BSU receiving corps, but Coach Lembo so far has been able to design a gameplan to exploit the opposing defense no matter the talent gaps.
AR: The rushing attack at BSU in the last few years has been our claim to fame, despite the high numbers put up by Nate Davis in 2008. For Coach Lembo, his offenses at recent stops have always been pass first, but again, because the offensive line has been able to push around the line of scrimmage in all games save for USF, the rush has become the primary weapon. Edwards is a bit of a bruiser, thriving on contact and will not go down on the first hit. Scott is more of a cutter/slasher who presents some speed problems assuming he can get to the corner. Both are talented and both present some matchup problems for most teams and a different sort of attack for the Cardinal offense.
CCM: On the defensive side of the ball what can you tell us about Ball State's schemes, game plan and some key players?
AR: For BSU, the defense has been the most consistent area of play this season. When it comes to pressure up front, guys like Nathan Ollie, Adam Morris, and Ryan Hartke on the defensive line have been able to not only stop the run but create chaos in the passing game. The linebacking crew of Aaron Morris, Travis Freeman, and Justin Cruz are not only good in run support but pass coverage. The secondary features some strong play at safety, as Sean Baker is the career INT leader for BSU, but the corners in Jay Pinkston, Josh Howard, and Quintin Cooper have yet to face the talent and skill like they will with Jones and company for the Sooners.
CCM: If you could pick your poison and take away on aspect of Oklahoma's offensive attack with the defense which would it be and why?
AR: I would take away the pass and demand OU to beat us on the ground for several reasons. First and foremost, by running the ball, it takes time off the clock and there's less time to hang an embarrassing score on the Cards. Additionally, the run defense for the Cards has been not bad this year. Having said that, this game comes down to Sooner mistakes. If they make a few, then this game may be closer than Sooner fans are ready for. If they play mistake free, it could get ugly early and the starters should get plenty of rest before Texas.
CCM: Score prediction time - Tell us how you think its going to shake out.
AR: As much as I'd like to predict a Biblical upset, I'll go optimistic in defeat and say 48-21 Sooners. The OU starters rest most of the second half and the Cards add a couple of TDs to the ledger late making it semi-respectable. Success for us will be anything under 50 allowed and getting out of Norman injury free.