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(23) Ball State (12-1) vs. Tulsa (10-3)



Tuesday, January 6th, 8:00 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals seek their first-ever postseason victory when they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the 10th annual GMAC Bowl at the Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

This will be the seventh bowl matchup for the Cardinals, who have an 0-5-1 ledger in the previous six appearances. Last year the Cardinals stumbled against Rutgers in the International Bowl, falling to the Scarlet Knights, 52-30. The Cardinals are coming off the best season in school history, as the team posted an outstanding 12-0 ledger during the regular season. It was the third undefeated campaign for Ball State in 84 years. Due to the tremendous success BSU was ranked as high as 12th in the BCS Standings, marking the first time in school history the Cardinals were in the national rankings. Ball State did not have an overpowering schedule with the toughest non-conference opponent being Indiana, and the Cardinals defeated the Hoosiers, 42-20. This team was never really challenged during the regular season, as the only single digit victory for Ball State was a 31-24 win over Central Michigan.

Unfortunately the team's tremendous season came to a crashing halt when the Cardinals were stunned by Buffalo in the MAC Championship game, 42-24. With the success on the season, Brady Hoke was tabbed MAC Coach of the Year, but Hoke will not be on the sideline for the meeting with Tulsa, as he has taken the head coaching job at San Diego State. Taking over at Ball State will be Stan Parrish, who was the offensive coordinator for the squad since 2006. Athletic Director Tom Collins feels the choice to make Parrish the head man was beneficial for the players with a bowl game on the horizon.

"We are extremely excited Coach Parrish has agreed to become the head football coach at Ball State," says Collins. "He has been very instrumental to our program?s success, and we look for that to continue as we move forward. The process to find our new head coach was done in a timely fashion, but our first and foremost concern was to do what was best for the student-athletes in the Ball State football program. Change is always difficult, and even more so for young adults. We talked to a number of people for a variety of reasons, and in the end we determined Coach Parrish was the right person to lead our football program."

As for the Golden Hurricane, they stormed out of the gates this year, winning their first eight games, while averaging an amazing 55.6 ppg. Unfortunately the team took a bit of a spill after its victory over UCF, falling to Arkansas (30-23) and Houston (70-30). Tulsa was able to rebound with victories over Tulane (56-7) and Marshall (38-35), closing out the regular season with a 10-2 ledger. The Golden Hurricane took on East Carolina in the Conference-USA title game, but seven turnovers were too much for Tulsa to overcome as the team fell, 27-24. Head Coach Todd Graham, who received a 10-year extension for his success at Tulsa, was unhappy with the performance against ECU, but was honored with the invite to the GMAC Bowl.

"Naturally, we're disappointed we didn't win the Conference USA Championship, but on the same hand we're very excited to have the opportunity to represent Conference USA at the GMAC Bowl and play an opponent like Ball State," said Coach Graham. "They're a 12-1 team and a nationally ranked team which is what we're excited about."

This will be the 16th bowl appearance for the Golden Hurricane, who have posted a mere 6-9 ledger in postseason play. The team's sixth victory came this past season, as Tulsa embarrassed Bowling Green, 63-7 in this same bowl game.

The Cardinals possess one of the most explosive offensive units in the nation, and finished the regular season averaging 36.6 ppg. Ball State, which set a single season school record with 476 points, churned out an outstanding 192.7 ypg on the ground, while also producing another 266.7 ypg through the air. MiQuale Lewis, who was selected to the All-MAC First Team, was sensational on the year, rushing for 1,701 yards and 22 touchdowns. Not to be overlooked was the play of quarterback Nate Davis, who was also tabbed for the All-MAC First Team. Davis, the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, completed 66.7 percent of his throws on the year and finished the regular season with 3,446 yards and 26 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Davis also tallied 277 yards and four scores on the ground. The loss of Dante Love to a severe injury left the Cardinals looking for another top target and eventually Briggs Orsbon became the top option for Davis. Orsbon paced the team with 65 receptions, 767 yards, and also scored five touchdowns. Darius Hill was one of the top tight ends in the MAC, and hauled in 38 passes for 633 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. Hill's tremendous play landed him on the All-MAC First Team with Davis and Lewis.

All the attention for Ball State went to the offense this season, and rightfully so, but the defensive unit for the Cardinals was just as impressive, as the unit limited the opposition to just 18.6 ppg. The Cardinals allowed just 141.8 ypg on the ground through the season, and held opponents to just 206.2 ypg through the air. Ball State was able to force 23 turnovers on the year, 16 of which were interceptions, but the squad struggled at pressuring the quarterback, as the Cardinals racked up just 21 sacks. There was no one standout players for this squad, but rather, the defensive unit for Ball State performed as a solid team. Sean Baker led the defense with 91 tackles and six interceptions and his success earned him the honor of MAC Freshman of the Year. Kenny Meeks paced the team with eight TFLs and six sacks on the season, while Brandon Crawford added seven TFLs and three sacks.

While the Cardinals were dangerous offensively, the Golden Hurricane could be tabbed the perfect storm on the offensive side of the ball, as the team finished second in the nation with 565.1 total ypg, and 47.4 ppg. Tulsa possessed a very balanced attack, rushing for a whopping 254.8 ypg, while throwing for another 310.2 ypg. Tarrion Adams paced the ground attack for Tulsa, as the tailback rumbled for 1,316 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.8 ypc. Adams' success earned him a spot on the All C-USA First Team. The success of the passing attack was due to the play of quarterback David Johnson, who completed 64.8 percent of his throws. Johnson finished the regular season with 3,866 yards and 43 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. One of Johnson's favorite targets was one of the top freshman in the nation in Damaris Johnson. The Johnson and Johnson duo connected for 47 passes for 608 yards and a team- best nine touchdowns. Brennan Marion only hauled in 43 receptions on the year, but the wideout finished with 1,112 yards and eight scores on 25.9 ypc. Marion's play landed him an All C-USA First Team selection with Adams. However, the big play threat is listed as questionable for this game with a knee injury. Slick Shelley and Charles Clay also contributed on the season, hauling in a combined 74 receptions for 1,083 yards and 17 scores and both may have to pick up the slack if Marion is unable to suit up.

Unfortunately the defensive play for Tulsa was not as impressive, as the team surrendered 391.2 total ypg, which led to 29.1 ppg. The major concern for this unit throughout the season was its inability to stop the pass, as teams racked up 257.7 ypg through the air, and out of the 44 touchdowns allowed by this unit, 32 of those scores came via the pass. Tulsa did force 22 turnovers on the season, while also showing a penchant for getting after opposing QBs with 36 sacks. Mike Bryan was a tackling machine all year, as the linebacker led the team with 112 stops, while also posting 10.5 TFLs and four sacks. James Lockett was just as important, as the defensive back collected 78 stops to go along with team-highs in TFLs (15.5) and sacks (8.5). Lockett's play earned him a spot on the All C-USA second team. Joining him will be defensive end Moton Hopkins, who racked up 75 tackles and 12.0 TFLs.

New Year's might be behind us, but expect to see fireworks in this matchup. Ball State and Tulsa possess dangerous offensive attacks, so there will likely be one big play after another and it may come down to who has the ball last.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 45, Tulsa 42

01/06 01:03:56 ET


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