Eagles Look To Rebound
Ball State @ Georgia Southern (-9.5) O/U 67.5 (per Tipico Sports Book)
City: Muncie, Indiana
Coach: Bryan Vincent (29-43, 7th Season)
Conference: Mid-American Conference (MAC)
Stadium: Scheumann Stadium
Two years off a 7-1 COVID shortened season, the Ball State Cardinals have struggled through the first three games of the 2022 season. The Cardinals opened the season with a 59-10 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers, a close 37-30 loss to Western Michigan, and a blowout win over FCS foe Murray State.
Offensively, the Cardinals are extremely balanced. Ball State averages 156 yards on the ground and 265 yards through the air. The offense has 104 rushing attempts compared to 128 passing attempts. Their opponents have forced five turnovers - three interceptions and two fumbles. Pace wise, the Cardinals have run 232 plays over three games, which will put pressure on the Eagle defense to make adjustments on the fly. The leading rusher for Ball State is RB Carson Steele. He has amassed over 300 yards on 62 carries through the first three games. Unlike Georgia Southern, Ball State does not have a stable of backs and they rely heavily on Steele. After watching the Eagles allow nearly 300 yards on the ground to UAB last week, the Cardinals running back has to be licking his chops. Only one Cardinal has attempted a pass so far this season - QB John Paddock. He is 78/123 for 797 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Receiving wise, look for WR Jayson Jackson, WR Yo'Heinz Tyler, and WR Amir Abdur-Rahman to get the ball a good bit as they have all crossed over 100 receiving yards this season.
Defensively, the Cardinals have surrendered nearly 400 yards per game - 171 on the ground and 216 through the air. The defense has forced six turnovers through the first two games of the season. It is obvious that the defensive staff preaches turnovers as the Cardinals have forced seven fumbles in 2022. Ball security for the Eagles will be tested by this group. The leader of the defense is junior LB Clayton Coll. He racked up over 100 tackles a sophomore last year and currently leads the team with 19 tackles so far this season. Look for him to play a major role in Saturday's game.
As for special teams, Ball State K Ben VonGunten is 5-5 on FG and 8-8 on PATs this season. P Lucas Borrow has punted 16 times for an average of 38.8 yards. If the Eagles can force the Cardinals to punt often, there is the potential for major gains in terms of field position. In the return game, senior DB Amechi Uzodinma II has been the go-to guy for the Cardinals as he has averaged just short of 22 yards per return.
City: Statesboro, Georgia
Coach: Clay Helton (2-1, 1st Year)
Conference: Sun Belt
Stadium: Allen E. Paulson Stadium
After the first win over a power five program in the FBS era, the Eagles came out flat against the UAB Blazers. The Blazers took an 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Eagles fought back and ended up losing the contest 35-21. The UAB defense forced QB Kyle Vantrease into some bad decisions and intercepted him three times during the game. RB DeWayne McBride carried the Blazer offense on his back to the tune of nearly 300 rushing yards and 4 TDs. Look for Defensive Coordinator Will Harris to make some adjustments in the run game against Ball State.
In the new offensive system, everything goes through QB Kyle Vantrease. He needs to shake off the UAB game and go into the homecoming game with all the confidence in the world. He is more than capable of carrying our offense to new heights. Look for WR Derwin Burgess, Jr., RB Jalen White, RB Gerald Green, and WR Khaleb Hood to stay heavily involved in the offensive game plan. The ball security of the two headed monster of White and Green will be put to the test this week as the Ball State Cardinals have forced seven fumbles and recovered three of them so far this season. Last week, it seemed that the offense was content throwing ball after ball to the sidelines instead of using the middle of the field to get the ball to playmakers in space. Look for some quick hitters this week that allow our athletes to gain yards after catch.
Defensively, LB Todd Bradley-Glenn was injured during the UAB game and will likely miss some extended time. The LB group along with defensive linemen Justin Ellis and Quin Williams will continue to lead the GS defense into battle. The run defense was exposed last week against UAB, but expect Defensive Coordinator Will Harris to make some big adjustments to keep Ball State RB Clayton Coll from running wild. The Cardinals like to run a balanced offense, so there will be pressure put on the defensive backfield as well. Look for one of the veteran Eagles to make a big play in the form of an interception.
K Alex Raynor is still just 2-2 on FGs and 17-17 on PATs this season. K Michael Lantz continues to be the primary kickoff specialist for Georgia Southern so far this season. Lantz did miss a long FG attempt against the Blazers last week. It had plenty of distance, so in a time where a long field goal is needed, Lantz is likely the guy Coach Helton runs out. P Anthony Beck II has not looked like himself at times this early this season. He has punted the ball nine times for an average of just over 44 yards so far. Look for him to get into a groove soon and start booming some kicks again for the Eagles. Maybe a home game is just what the doc ordered for him!
As Georgia Southern holds its annual Homecoming game, expect a ruckus, energized crowd to be present at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. The Power of Paulson will be real and the Eagles, led by a great performance by QB Kyle Vantrease, get back on track and pull away late.
Cardinals - 20
Eagles - 38
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Written by: Logan Colburn