Phil Friend is the proprietor of the fine internet establishment known as The Sixth Ball Brother, a Ball State blog that you might have noticed has occupied a place on my blogroll for a while now. He was kind enough to answer a few questions on Ball State football.
You have two degrees from Ball State. You’ve been a Cardinals fan for a long time. That means you’ve seen a lot of bad football. If anyone can relate to the joy of finally winning football games after years and years of losing, it’s a Navy fan. How special was last year for you, and how does it feel to go into a season with such high expectations?
In all honesty, while last year was pretty special, it had a chance to be so much more. The near-miss at Nebraska, the &^#*# loss to Miami in the opener, and we laid down against Indiana and Central Michigan in the biggest game of the year.
All that being said, I’ve never been as excited for a season as I am now. We’ve been patiently waiting for this since Nate arrived on campus and now the time is here. I know I’m not the only BSU fan to feel this way, but sometimes I have to pinch myself when I hear everyone talking about how good we can be. We aren’t that far removed from the 21-game losing streak and Bill Lynch running our program into the ground. We’re also not too far removed from Curtis Painter and the North Dakota State quarterback from each throwing for more than 400 yards against us. So I try my best to stay grounded.
What concerns do you have for the team going into this season?
If Nate gets hurt, we are up S creek. Tanner Justice is not very good. Also, like every year, our defense. It’s like Swiss cheese, there are a lot of holes. You guys know that, you tallied 524 rushing yards against us last year…yet lost :), which still makes me smile. Basically, our offense is unstoppable as long as we stay healthy. Our defense is the complete opposite.
Nate Davis, Dante Love, and Darius Hill are pretty well known to any hardcore college football fan. Who else should Navy fans keep their eyes on in this game?
I didn’t know we had anyone else on our team! But you guys should be familiar w/ our 32-year old defensive end Brandon Crawford, he blocked the field goal in last year’s game. Offensively, any number of guys could have a big day against Navy’s D. But WR Dan Ifft may be someone to watch out for.
The running game hasn’t been Ball State’s strength the last couple of years (on either side of the ball). But MiQuale Lewis ran for 161 yards against Navy last year, and was on his way to a similar performance against Nebraska before an injury knocked him out for the season. Is Lewis healthy? And is the running game a point of emphasis for the offense this season?
By all indications, yes, he’s healthy. And he’s a huge part of our offense. I think we all breathed a huge sigh of relief when he took his second carry of the game 48 yards against Northeastern. But he’s only 5-4, and each of his past two seasons have ended early because of injury. If we’re going to go 12-0, 11-1 or 10-2, Lewis will have to be healthy and the running game does need to be a point of emphasis.
As a Ball State fan, what is your perception of Navy both as a team and a program?
I don’t think I have a bad thing to say about the Naval Academy. From all accounts, they treat everyone with class. But as a team, you definitely think triple option when you hear Navy.
Thanks to Phil for doing my job for me and providing me with content for my humble corner of the internet. Make sure to check his site for my answers to his questions as well as his breakdown of the Cardinals’ opener against Northeastern. I may have one more Q&A exchange for you this week, so stay tuned.