Ball State’s Lembo: Team is buying in

Ball State’s senior class has seen just about everything at this point. As freshmen, they won the MAC West championship with a 12-0 regular season before falling in the conference title game and then a bowl game. Immediately after that, though, they lost coach Brady Hoke to San Diego State. Stan Parrish took over and in two years won exactly half as many games as Hoke won that season, finishing 2-10 in 2009 and 4-8 in 2010. Parrish was let go after two seasons.

New coach Pete Lembo is used to rebuilding projects, having overseen them at Lehigh and Elon in the Football Bowl Subdivision. This is the second time he’s taken over a team on which the senior class has seen three coaching staffs. Despite the tumult they’ve seen, he said the veterans have been receptive.

“They’ve seen a lot of highs and lows here, but they’ve been terrific to us,” Lembo said. “… The seniors in particular have been so open and honest. They’ve been extremely helpful in terms of talking candidly about some of the problems that have been here in the past.”

Lembo has a reputation for putting the ball in the air. Last year, his Elon team ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense. Sophomore Keith Wenning has won the battle to be his first quarterback at Ball State, beating out junior Kelly Page.

“It’s been pretty steady progress since the spring with those guys,” Lembo said. “I don’t know that either one of them is a finished product.”

The Cardinals may have to throw the ball around, because they may not have much of the experience in the backfield that they were expecting. Tailback Eric Williams, who led the team with 613 yards and five touchdowns last season, transferred to Hampton at the beginning of the preseason. Senior Cory Skies (260 yards, 2TD’s) and David Brown (348 yards) both return, but Lembo said both have endured nagging injuries and may or may not be ready to play on Saturday night. Sophomore Barrington Scott and freshman Jahwan Edwards will likely be at the top of the depth chart.

Lembo also said that star safety Sean Baker will play with a cast on his hand.

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