FORT WAYNE – Theyve beaten Indiana. Theyve beaten South Florida. Theyre 3-1 for the second year in a row, something they havent been since 1965, when Ball State University was so new a handle that tongues all over Muncie were still tripping over it.
So of course the expectations of Ball State football coach Pete Lembo, his staff and players are running five minutes fast these days, right?
We were 3-1 last year at this time, too, Lembo reminded everyone this week. And we werent able to keep it going.
And so welcome to Perspective Land, ladies and gentlemen.
Its a toned-down country where bright lights get dimmed, the volume is constantly being turned down and chest-beating is strictly forbidden, 3-1 record or not.
Yes, 1965 was so long ago that Ball State Teachers College had just officially become Ball State University. And, yes, beating two schools in the same season from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences has never happened before. No ones getting ahead of themselves, anyway.
I think theres a good balance right now, Lembo says. I dont think anybodys got any delusions right now that all of a sudden weve become Oklahoma, because we havent. Our guys are gaining confidence, but theyre not thinking were better than we are, and they know we have to continue to work very hard to beat anybody.
That includes last week, when the Cardinals knocked off Big East rep South Florida 31-27 on Willie Sneads 19-yard touchdown catch with 1:02 to play. It was Sneads 11th reception of the day, highlighting an afternoon in which the Cardinals didnt commit a turnover or procedural penalty, downed a punt inside the 1-yard line, blocked an extra point just before halftime and sealed the victory with an Eric Patterson interception on the last play of the game.
Its good to see that confidence building and guys in all parts of the team stepping up and making plays when we need them to, Lembo said.
Theyre also coming out of halftime with confidence. In four games, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 59-10 in the third quarter – a circumstance that Lembo believes goes back again to that calm, collected, lets-not-get-excited-about-this mentality.
I really like our demeanor in there at halftime, and it starts with the coaching staff and how we deal with the kids, Lembo says. But, again, its not different than what we do all the time in practice. Our coaches are out there teaching and theres communication going back and forth, and its a positive thing. And that happens at halftime, too.
I dont think peeling the paint off the walls does a whole lot for our guys. Sometimes you just need a little bit of peace and quiet.
A little bit of luck might help, too, with the Cardinals going to 2-1 Kent State on Saturday. The Golden Flashes are No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin, feature a physical defense, strong special teams and have outscored opponents 24-0 in the first quarter.
Theyre much improved, Lembo says.
And the Cardinals?
Still getting there.
There has to be a patience factor, Lembo says. You have to stay the course. But you also have to be realistic and say This is where we are as a football team right now.