Game time: 7PM
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
ESPN3 (Jim Barbar, Adam Archuletta)
IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Buck Suhr, and Joe Smith)
There will be a lot of new on the sidelines when Indiana and Ball State kick off the 2011 football season Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Both programs feature new coaches. Kevin Wilson debuts as a head coach andsteps in for the fired Bill Lynch at IU, while Pete Lembo has taken over the reigns for Stan Parrish at Ball State.
Wilson spent the 2002-10 seasons at Oklahoma, where he served as co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach from 2002-05 and as offensive coordinator and tight ends and fullbacks coach from 2006-10. OU played in seven Big 12 Title games in Wilson’s nine years, going 6-1 in those appearances. His offenses were vital to accumulating an overall record of 99-24 (.805) during his time in Norman, including seven 10-win seasons.
Lembo spent 2006-10 at Elon, where he posted a 35-22 mark. From 2001-05, he recorded a 44-14 record at Lehigh.
In addition to the coaches, each squad will feature a new signal caller. Either redshirt sophomores Dusty Kiel (6-2 216) or Edward Wright-Baker (6-1 217) will direct the Hoosiers offense. Each has split time working with the first unit during preseason camp. Kiel is more of a pocket passer while Wright-Baker offers a dual run-pass threat. Wilson hasn’t tipped his hand on who will start, but it’s a safe bet both will see action. True freshman Tre Roberson, Indiana’s Mr. Football in 2010, could also see the field in limited packages.
Ball State has had its own two man competition. Sophomore Keith Wenning (6-4 220) and junior Kelly Page (6-3 211) both played last year with mixed success.
Both coaches like to play a no-huddle, fast paced style, so the game could be a high-scoring affair. A closer look follows:
When IU has the ball:
If the Indiana QB’s can get them the ball, the Hoosiers possess another talented group of wide receivers, led by senior Demarlo Belcher. Belcher (6-3 214) has a chance to become IU’s all-time leading receiver with a strong finish to his career. He’s a big, physical receiver with deceptive speed who is a consistent hand catcher. Joining Belcher are Duwyce Wilson, an emerging deep threat, and youngsters Kofi Hughes and Logan Young, and Jay McCants. Sophomore tight end Ted Bolser may miss the game due to injury, but senior Max Dedmond is steady.
The Hoosiers will feature a committee of running backs, at least initially. Redshirt sophomore Matt Perez has rebounded nicely from a knee injury last year and should split carries with juco transfer Stephen Houston and true freshman D’Angelo Roberts, a local Bloomington product.
Indiana’s rebuilt offensive line has some pieces in place with center Will Matte and tackle Andrew McDonald, but as a unit they’re inexperienced and not physical enough. Improvement is needed here to give a young quarterback time to adapt.
Ball State is led by All-American safety prospect Sean Baker. Baker has been a fixture in Muncie and can be counted on to make big plays. Fellow safety Kyle Hoke is also a playmaker. Another Cardinal to watch is Junior middle linebacker Travis Freeman, a rangy, active player who demonstrates sideline-to-sideline presence.
When Ball Sate has the ball:
Behind Wenning or Page, the Cardinals have a one-two running back punch. Junior Eric Williams is Ball State’s leading returning rusher (613 yards, 4.8 ave.) and scatback Corey Sykes (5-7), a senior with game breaking speed.
The receivers are capable, but undistinguished. Look for the ball to be spread around several players.
The Cardinals sport decent size up front and experience. Senior Kreg Hunter anchors the unit at center, which also includes senior guard Jerrod Gray and junior tackle Andrew Hotlz.
IU will be challenged with the speed of Ball State in the opening contest. The Hoosiers move to a 4-3 scheme and look to be more stout defending the run than in recent years. Adam Replogle and Larry Black are penciled in at tackle, while Darius Johnson is being counted on to ratchet up his play at end. He’s undersized, but has the tools to be an effective pass rusher at the collegiate level.
The linebacker corps of Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum appears solid, but the Hoosiers have a revolving door that hasn’t completely been closed in the secondary. A number of players could see action, but Greg Heban, the former walk on from Delta High School was the most consistent through preseason.
Predicted Final Score:
Indiana 31 Ball State 17
Red-Stepping: Indiana kicks off its 127th year of football on Saturday, Sept. 3, as the Hoosiers face the Ball State Cardinals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. EDT and ESPN3 will broadcast the game. IU returns 13 starters from 2010, including six on offense, six on defense and one on special teams. The Hoosiers are multiple on offense and will run a 4-3 base defense.
The Ball State Series
Indiana has won four of the five games in the all-time series against Ball State. The Hoosiers won the first four contests before BSU earned a victory at Memorial Stadium in 2008. This is the first neutral site meeting between the two teams.
Indiana has won its last seven season openers and eight of its last nine.
• The Hoosiers own a 35-6-1 (.845) all-time mark against Mid-American Conference opponents.
• IU is 20-6 (.769) in regular-season non-conference games since the start of the 2004 season.
• The last time the Hoosiers did not open the season at Memorial Stadium came back in 2005. Terry Hoeppner won his debut by defeating Central Michigan, 20-13, on Sept. 2, in Mount Pleasant.
• This is the third game for the Hoosiers in an Indianapolis NFL Stadium. IU played Illinois (Nov. 10, 1984) and Penn State (Oct. 28, 2000) at the RCA Dome (originally Hoosier Dome).
• Saturday evening marks the first FBS game at Lucas Oil Stadium, host of the Big Ten Championship Game.
• Hoosiers sophomore cornerback Greg Heban and redshirt freshman wide receiver Logan Young were teammates at Delta High School in Muncie, Ind.