Saturday, October 18, 2003

Roethlisberger will test Ball St. DBs

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Four weeks ago, Miami coach Terry Hoeppner was wondering how his RedHawks would react to playing their first home game after opening with four on the road. He joked about putting his players on buses to simulate a road trip.

Kickoff: 3 p.m., Ball State Stadium (21,255), Muncie, Ind.
Records: Miami (5-1, 2-0 Mid-American Conference East), Ball State (3-3, 2-0 MAC West).
TV: Ch. 64, ESPN Plus.
Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450).
Series: Miami leads 14-8-1.
Line: Miami by 16.
What to watch: The Cardinals rank 14th in the nation and second in the MAC with a plus-six turnover margin. They've lost only three fumbles.
This week, with a trip to Ball State on hand after playing three consecutive home games for the first time since the end of the 1976 season, Hoeppner is a little concerned about the impact of going back on the road.

"You get used to sleeping in your own beds, and you don't have to worry about where to catch the team bus or how to check in," Hoeppner said.

The good news for the RedHawks is they're breaking in gradually with the shortest of any of their Mid-American Conference road trips. Muncie, Ind., the home of Ball State, is just 70 miles northwest of Miami's Oxford campus, but though the journey might be relatively comfortable, the destination could be a problem.

The Cardinals (3-3, 2-0) are one of four teams tied for first place in the MAC West Division. Under first-year coach Brady Hoke, a Ball State alumnus and former Michigan assistant, the Cardinals lead the conference and rank 19th in the nation in pass defense.

They are allowing 180.3 yards a game, which has helped them get off to a 2-0 start in the MAC for the first time since 1995.

The Ball State defensive backfield will be tested by a Miami attack that ranks among the nation's top 10 in total offense, passing and scoring. Even though the Cardinals defense is ranked 11th in the MAC against the run, Hoeppner sees no need to adjust the RedHawk gameplan, which is cranking out 326.3 yards a game through the air and 478.3 overall.

The Cardinals are coming off a 34-17 win at Kent State, which is Miami's next opponent. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who led Miami in receiving yardage in 1980 and 1981, has installed a version of the West Coast offense he learned as an assistant at Stanford.

Ball State opened the season with one fifth-year senior, Andy Roesch, at quarterback, but Roesch suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of a 35-7 loss to Missouri in the second game of the season. Fifth-year senior Talmadge Hill then took over. Hill, a former MAC Freshman of the Year, is second in career passes and completions at Ball State and has passed for more than 250 yards in a game four times, tying the school record.

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