The Ball State Cardinals are chirping loudly heading into the heart of their schedule in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals scored a huge 48-27 win at Virginia last Saturday in their final non-conference game.
It was Ball State's first win ever over a team currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"In terms of the big picture, it's a really special win," said third-year Ball State head coach Pete Lembo, now 4-3 against teams from Football Bowl Subdivision automatic qualifying conferences. "It gives us some great credibility on a national level."
"People talk on campus," said senior cornerback Jeff Garrett (Indianapolis – Ben Davis H.S.), who leads the team with two interceptions this season. "Everybody's congratulating us. But we don't get the big head."
The Cards are off to their best start (5-1, 2-0 MAC) since the 2008 team finished the regular season 12-0. Saturday is homecoming in Muncie. Ball State hosts Kent State (2-4, 1-2 MAC) at 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
The Cardinals have a Wenning quarterback. That's not a spelling error. Senior Keith Wenning (Coldwater, OH) leads an offense that has scored a school-record 248 points through the first six games of the season. That's 41.3 points a game. Wenning is Ball State's all-time leader in pass completions and yardage. He's the only quarterback in major college football to throw for over 300 yards in the first six games this season. He ranks 2nd in the nation in passing yards.
"You have to keep coming each week, every day in practice and not be satisfied with where you're at and get better each day," said Wenning.
Wenning's top target is junior wide receiver Willie Snead. The two have connected 41 times for 715 yards and five touchdowns already this season.
"The chemistry between me and Keith is on point," said Snead, who already ranks in the top six at Ball State in career catches, receiving yards, and touchdown catches. "We've always worked in the summer off-season. Connecting on the (game) field is just like practice. We don't really flinch when things happen. But when we connect, we're going for big plays."
The Cardinals would be undefeated if not for blowing a second half lead at North Texas, losing 34-27 on September 14th.
"I think that game taught us a lot about ourselves," said Wenning. "I don't know if we'd be where we are right now without that game. You learn from it and move on and try not to let those things happen again."
Lembo goes for his 100th coaching victory Saturday. A win would also make the Cardinals bowl eligible. But this Ball State team has a chance for more than just another bowl game.
"I don't think a lot about wins," said Lembo. "I just think about reaching our potential. You really don't understand what your potential is until the season is over."
Lembo believes his first two teams at Ball State reached their potential. There's no denying the potential of this year's team is far greater.