IU hasn’t defeated Ball State since 2007.
The Cardinals ran the Hoosiers off the field in 2008, 42-20. In 2011, IU Coach Kevin Wilson’s first season at the helm, Ball State upset IU 27-20 in a game played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
A year later the Cardinals kicked a field goal with one second left to beat the Hoosiers 41-39 in Memorial Stadium in a game in which Nate Sudfeld made just his second collegiate appearance, came off the bench and nearly led IU to a fourth-quarter comeback.
Wilson acknowledged the non-conference demon that is Ball State at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, and now, coming into IU’s home opener Saturday, he said he isn’t overlooking the Mid-American Conference foe.
“Know it’s going to be a big game for them,” Wilson said. “Big game for us. Very impressed with the way they played. That was a strong win in their opener. I know they’ll come in excited and expecting another good win. We expect it.”
Wilson said Ball State, which defeated Georgia State 31-21 to kick off its season, dominated its opener and very easily could have put up 45.
While IU’s offense will look to improve and will certainly be aided by the likely return of junior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr., the real battle will come between Ball State’s rushing attack and IU defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 defense.
The Cardinals, behind James Gilbert’s 160 yards and Darian Green’s 93, dominated the line of scrimmage and touched up Georgia State for 325 total yards on the ground.
IU, on the other hand, allowed Florida International to collect just 63 total rushing yards.
The key to stopping Gilbert, Green and others will be getting penetration at the line of scrimmage, Wilson said. But, with Ball State’s new coaching staff, the film IU has on the Cardinals might not give the whole picture.
“Our defense this week — same offensively — we saw a lot of things against Georgia State,” Wilson said. “You can get some different looks this week. These first couple games are always a little hard, cat and mouse, how much have you showed, not showed.”
If IU does have to adjust as Wilson supposes, junior safety Tony Fields said he feels he and his teammates will be able to.
“I’m very confident in our defense because the calls that we have are very flexible,” Fields said, “So we just have to be locked in throughout the game and have tremendous focus. So, whatever they bring to us we have to adjust on the fly.”
Fields said IU started looking at Ball State the day after the Hoosiers got back from Miami and while the players were on their own to watch Ball State’s game against Georgia State, he said he knows for a fact the coaches went out and watched it.
IU senior offensive guard Dan Feeney said he knows the Hoosiers have had trouble with the Cardinals in the past, but when IU plays Ball State on Saturday, it will be a chance for a new team with a new legacy to end the losing streak.
“We’re just confident in what we’re going to do this year as this unit,” Feeney said. “Obviously we’re going to give it our all.”
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