Toledo (2-2) at Ball State (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 3:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scheumann Stadium (22,500) -- Muncie, Indiana. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Toledo 1-0, BSU 2-0. Away Record: Toledo 1-2, BSU 1-1. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, BSU 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 1-0, BSU 1-0. Series Record: Toledo leads, 19-18-1.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Mid-American Conference West Division rivals will square off in what could end up being a crucial matchup as the Toledo Rockets take on the Ball State Cardinals at Scheumann Stadium.
Toledo and Ball State tied for second behind the eventual conference champion Northern Illinois Huskies in 2012, as both schools finished 9-4 overall and 6-2 in conference action. The Rockets and Cardinals are currently tied for first in the division having both won their inaugural MAC games this season.
The Rockets have picked up some steam since their 0-2 start which consisted of road losses against SEC opponents Florida (24-6) and Missouri (38-28). Coach Matt Campbell's squad earned its first win of the season as it dispatched FCS foe Eastern Washington, 33-21, and followed that triumph with a 38-17 rout of Central Michigan at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in the team's first taste of MAC play last week. The Rockets' victory over EWU was quite impressive considering the Eagles are ranked No. 2 in the FCS polls and pulled off an upset of then nationally-ranked Oregon State to begin the 2013 season.
Ball State improved to 3-1 overall as it coasted to a 51-20 decision at Eastern Michigan last week. Coach Pete Lembo's team opened up the 2013 season with two straight home wins over Illinois State (51-28) and Army (40-14), but was defeated, 34-27, by North Texas in its first road test.
The all-time series between these schools is very tight with the Rockets holding a 19-18-1 edge through 38 games. The Cardinals ended their three-game losing slide to Toledo last year with a 34-27 victory at the Glass Bowl.
Terrance Owens was able to return from the left knee injury that forced him to leave the EWU game after just two pass attempts and completed 13-of-17 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown against CMU to help the Rockets claim their second consecutive win. The senior signal caller did not take the field until the second quarter, but provided a much needed spark after freshman QB Logan Woodside managed to complete only 3-of-6 pass attempts for 27 yards.
Bernard Reedy was too elusive for CMU's secondary as he caught eight passes for 96 yards to lead all receivers. The Rockets' offensive line has been strong with only 0.5 sacks allowed per game, which is tied for first in the nation. With ample time to set up his routes, Reedy has been able to amass 291 yards on 26 catches this season. Toledo was successful on 9-of-12 third-down plays and held a 418-370 edge in total yards of offense last week. The team's strong performance with the ball was courtesy of tailback David Fluellen, who motored his way to a season-high 197 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The senior halfback has surpassed the century mark on the ground in three consecutive games and ranks fourth in the nation with 497 yards rushing.
Toledo's defense is allowing 386.5 offensive yards and 25 points per game, which is decent considering the level of its competition. The Rockets were paced last week by the linebacker duo of Junior Sylvestre and Chase Murdock, who tied for the team-lead with 12 tackles each. Murdock also registered a career-best three tackles for losses, forced one fumble and recorded his first career interception. Sylvestre jumped on two fumbles and is second in the MAC in total tackles with 43 on the campaign.
The Rockets will have their hands full this week as Ball State comes in ranked No. 1 in the MAC in scoring (42.2 ppg) and passing (336 ypg). Senior QB Keith Wenning is one of just two players in the FBS to have thrown for 300 yards or more in four games this year. Wenning has accounted for 11 TDs on the season and has been picked off only twice. His favorite target, Willie Snead, has been unstoppable with 480 yards and four touchdowns on 28 catches to lead the MAC in all receiving categories. Jamill Smith is seventh in the league with 74.5 yards per game.
Jahwan Edwards provided a much needed spark to the offense in his return from injury last week, carrying the ball 15 times for 81 yards and three touchdowns. The junior halfback showed his value last year as he compiled 1,410 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on 232 carries. Horactio Banks is a solid second option in the running game.
The Cardinals have been able to overcome their poor defensive play this season so far, although they could be in trouble if they are unable to lower their allowed averages of 429 yards of total offense and 24 points per game. Ball State has been very poor against the run, which is not a good sign considering this week's matchup. Ben Ingle and Zack Ryan are tied for the team-high with 35 total stops apiece.
Ball State's defense has been able to record a MAC-high 10 takeaways and will need to continue to do so to stay atop the division. Although Toledo's offense is not very flashy, it usually does a good job of limiting turnovers. Outside of Owens's three interceptions at Missouri, the Rockets have committed just two turnovers. The Cardinals will either need to improve defensively or have an offensive explosion to win back-to-back games in the rivalry.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 34, Ball State 27
09/25 10:32:55 ET