Keith Wenning

Report: Ball State to make Lembo highest paid coach in MAC

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Ball State will make head coach Pete Lembo the highest paid coach in the MAC as part of a five-year contract extension. According to Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com, who was first to report the contract extension, Ball State will also improve various aspects of the football program to provide for future growth.

The contract extension at Ball State comes after the third season under Lembo. In that time Ball State has improved on the season win total each year. In 2013 the Cardinals went 10-3 and finished second in the MAC West behind Northern Illinois. Ball State went to their second straight bowl game under Lembo, but so far they are 0-2 in the postseason. A lack of postseason victories aside, Lembo has shown signs of improvement in the program each season and has put some of his players in position to be some of the best in the conference.

Keith Wenning excelled at quarterback, leading the MAC in pass completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns and completion percentage last fall. Willie Snead led the conference in receptions and receiving yards as well as receiving touchdowns. The defense improved as well. Last fall Ball State had the third highest positive average point differential in the MAC, trailing only MAC champion Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.

This is a great move by Ball State. Lembo’s success with the program has made him an attractive coaching candidate that will be looked at by other programs from power conferences in the next round of the coaching carousel, especially if he can continue to find ways to improve on the field this upcoming season. While a contract extension will not necessarily keep Lembo from leaving one day for a higher paying opportunity at a power conference program, adding that security and comfort for Lembo is a no-brainer that will hopefully make him think hard before possibly leaving.

Wild ending leads to Arkansas State upset of Ball State in GoDaddy Bowl

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Maybe Arkansas State should just hire interim coach John Thompson as its permanent coach.

For the second-straight year, Thompson picked up the pieces of a coaching staff in turmoil — the result of Brian Harsin being hired away by Boise State — and led the Red Wolves to a postseason victory, this time defeating favored Ball State, 23-20, in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile on Sunday night.

This one featured a wild finish, as Ball State rallied from a 16-10 third-quarter deficit to take a 20-16 lead with 1:33 to play.

But ASU came back and went 59 yards in five plays, with Fredi Knighten finding Allen Muse for a 13-yard touchdown pass to put the Red Wolves up, 23-20, with 32 seconds left.

The Cardinals weren’t finished. Keith Wenning passed Ball State into Red Hawk territory, then completed a first-down throw to Willie Snead with two seconds left at the ASU 36 yard line. A late hit penalty advanced it to the 21 and BSU had a chance to pull out the victory with a field goal.

But Scott Secor’s 38-yard attempt was blocked and ASU secured the wild win.

The Red Wolves finished up the year 8-5, while Ball State fell to 10-3.

With the loss, the Cardinals dropped to 0-7 in bowl games. Arkansas State moved to 2-2 in bowls and can now embark upon its coaching search with a little bit of momentum behind it.

Sneak Peek: 2014 GoDaddy Bowl

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WHO: 7-5 Arkansas State (Sun Belt Conference) vs. 10-2 Ball State (MAC)

WHAT: GoDaddy Bowl (15th year)

WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.

WHEN: Jan. 5 at 9 p.m. ET

WHY: For the third consecutive year, Arkansas State goes into its bowl game without its head coach, while Ball State will be looking for its first bowl win in seven tries.

The Red Wolves lost Hugh Freeze to Ole Miss in 2011, Gus Malzahn to Auburn in 2012 and this year saw Brian Harsin head back to Boise State, which means defensive coordinator John Thompson will run the team for the second-straight postseason. He’ll have a tall task trying to contain Ball State’s high-scoring offense.

The Cardinals averaged 40.1 points per game and are led by quarterback Keith Wenning, who threw for 3,933 yards and 34 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Wide receiver Willie Snead was his main target, with 97 receptions for 1,429 yards and 14 scores. Tailbacks Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks combined for 1,459 yards and 20 touchdowns. So this is a balanced, dynamic attack.

The Red Wolves were not quite as proficient on offense, but they did get a solid season from dual-threat quarterback Adam Kennedy, who threw for 2,337 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 514 yards and four scores. The ASU rushing attack is pretty good, churning out yards at the rate of 207 per game.

Will the Red Wolves falter as the result of another postseason filled with coaching turbulence?  Will the Cardinals finally get that bowl victory? Our guess is ‘yes’ on both accounts.

PREDICTION: Ball State 38, Arkansas State 17

The Fifth Quarter: Week 14 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Bama bummer a boon for Buckeyes
Well, that escalated quickly.  With an Alabama-Florida State BCS title game tucked comfortably into the vast majority of people’s minds, Auburn done went and did that damn thing: a stunning 100-yard return of a missed field goal with no time left on the clock to send Alabama to its first loss and very likely ending the SEC’s streak of seven straight BCS titles.  And, at the same moment, sending the entire state of Ohio — and the bus carrying the Buckeyes back home — into a mix of stunned joy and utter elation.  Suddenly, Ohio State sits firmly in the driver’s seat for one of the two spots in the BCS title, with only Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game standing between the Buckeyes and a trip to the Rose Bowl Jan. 7.

Let’s also get this straight while we’re here: a one-loss SEC champion Auburn/Missouri will not leapfrog an unbeaten Big Ten champion Ohio State.  They shouldn’t, and they won’t.  It’s simply not going to happen, so that little meme — which is already being pushed by one SEC athletic director — needs to be nipped in the bud before it gains any type of serious traction.  Yes, it’s quite possible Auburn/Missouri could jump past not only Ohio State but Florida State as well in the computer composite with a win next weekend; no, they won’t jump either in the two human polls that make up the other two-thirds of the BCS rankings.  To put it in a historical context, no undefeated automatic-qualifying conference team has been ranked behind a one-loss team in the final rankings in the 15-year history of the BCS.

Boiled down?  If Ohio State and Florida State handle their respective conference business next weekend, it will be a Buckeyes-Seminoles BCS title game.  If one or both stumbles?  Some combination of Auburn, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Michigan State and, yes, Alabama, could be right back in the mix.  The title-game scenario has the opportunity to be relatively simple and very straightforward… or turn into utter chaos once again.

As for the rest of the BCS bowl games, they are shaping up to look as follows if it’s an OSU-FSU title game:

  • Rose Bowl: Stanford/Arizona State vs. Michigan State
  • Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama
  • Sugar Bowl: Auburn/Missouri vs. UCF
  • Oklahoma State/Baylor/Texas vs. Northern Illinois

Obviously, that’s a very tentative look at how the BCS will look, depending on how next weekend plays out.  Still, it gives you a fairly solid idea of which direction the major bowls appear to be headed.

Exiting Week 14, the second-to-last BCS rankings that are released Sunday night should look as follows: No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Alabama.  Exiting Week 15?  Based on the past couple of weeks, who the hell knows.

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Boyd, Murray, McCarron on updated Golden Arm Award watch list

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Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd remain the most recognizable names on the watch list for the 2013 Golden Arm Award, presented to the top senior quarterback in college football by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm educational Foundation. In all, 15 players were announced as finalists for the quarterback award, trimming the initial watch list down from 30 players.

The SEC has four players still up for the award, with Murray and McCarron joined by Missouri’s James Franklin and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw. Franklin’s injury suffered in a win at Georgia this past weekend will likely keep him out of the running for the award moving forward.

The Pac 12 has with Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion and Washington’s Keith Price still on the list. Mannion was this past weekend’s top Golden Arm Award performer among those on the original 30-player watch list. He currently leads the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes and is the only quarterback in the country averaging 400 yards per game.

The ACC has two quarterbacks on the updated list, with Boyd accompanied by Miami’s Stephen Morris. There are no quarterbacks from the Big 12 or Big Ten that made the cut.

Here is a look at the updated Golden Arm Award watch list.

  • Blake Bortles, UCF
  • Tajh Boyd, Clemson
  • Derek Carr, Fresno State
  • Cody Fajardo, Nevada
  • James Franklin, Missouri
  • Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
  • Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
  • Sean Mannion, Oregon State
  • AJ McCarron, Alabama
  • Stephen Morris, Miami
  • Aaron Murray, Georgia
  • Keith Price, Washington
  • Connor Shaw, South Carolina
  • Joe Southwick, Boise State
  • Keith Wenning, Ball State