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Column: Rush defense is key for Ball State victory


By Connor Killoren



The IU football program faces a tremendous opportunity Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium, albeit an opportunity of which the Hoosiers certainly aren’t proud.

Should IU Coach Kevin Wilson’s squad defeat visiting Ball State, it would mark the first victory against the Cardinals since the 2007 season.

Then, the Hoosiers had a 38-20 triumph against former Ball State Head Coach Brady Hoke’s squad.

Since that day, the Hoosiers have dropped two consecutive games against Ball State, 42-20 in 2008 and 27-20 in last season’s opening game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It’s not often that a team from the Mid-American Conference can have such a one-sided rivalry with a Big Ten Conference opponent, but that’s the sad truth facing the IU program.

Balancing this rivalry of intra-state institutions won’t be a small task for the Hoosiers.

Ball State is capable of scoring in bunches, particularly with a potent rushing attack featuring fearsome running back duo sophomore Jahwan Edwards and freshman Horactio Banks.

The two were key cogs in last week’s loss at Clemson, when the Cardinals tacked a respectable 27 points on the scoreboard. Clemson is a team currently ranked 11th in both the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and AP Poll.

The Cardinals have much to buzz about despite suffering a 52-27 loss. Banks amassed 120 net rushing yards on only seven carries.

Seventy-five of those yards came on two separate touchdown runs, the first a 54-yard scramble late in the first quarter and the second a 21-yard rumble early in the third quarter.

That should be enough to have IU co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler shaking in their boots.

The Hoosier defense allowed 192 net rushing yards to Indiana State running back Shakir Bell, who is similar in size and speed to Banks.

What Banks is capable of doing against the Hoosiers is, far and away, the key to Saturday evening’s contest.

While Banks provides the lightning for the Ball State offense, Jahwan Edwards is the thunder. Edwards, a 5-foot-10-inch, 225-pound power running back, is averaging an astounding 8.2 yards per carry through two games this season.

Edwards has compiled 254 net rushing yards on 31 carries as well as three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ first two games against Eastern Michigan and Clemson.

It’s not too tricky, actually. The Hoosiers have the option of stacking the box, which would stuff Ball State’s rushing attack, but would leave IU’s cornerbacks in single
coverage.

That’s a risk the Hoosiers might be forced to take, despite veteran Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning being well versed in the art of the play-action passing game.

Should IU choose to go the route of this suggested defensive game plan, the cornerbacks and safeties can’t afford to bite on the play-action fake, or the Cardinals will take advantage of long strikes down the field.

Execute, and the Hoosiers will claim bragging rights in the rivalry with Ball State.

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