UB Gameday: Five Things to Watch vs. Ball State
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. at UB Stadium.
Radio 1520 AM. Online: ESPN3.
1. Slow start? Last week started in the worst possible way for UB. Kent State’s Nick Holley ran 65 yards on the first play from scrimmage. (His knee may or may not have been down when he spun out of Brandon Crawford’s tackle, but there was no review from the MAC officials.) UB held Kent to a field goal. But on Kent’s second possession, just 3 minutes later, Holley ran 67 yards for a TD. Deflation City. You could feel the air leave the stadium. You could see it leave the UB sideline. UB has been outscored in the first quarter, 38-0. The Bulls must get something going early.
2. Jordan Johnson. UB has to get him going. It must keep trying because it’s hard to see the offense having a chance without him. Johnson had the devastating fumble-returned-for-TD last week. He was only 8 for 28 yards (a 3.5 average) on first-down runs vs. Kent. Against Army he was 6 for 13 on first-down runs. UB must find a way to do better.
3. Ball State’s safeties. Watch Corey Hall (No. 8) and Martez Hester (21). Is Hester playing up in the box to defend Johnson? Hall is a former cornerback who has cover skills. Hester has 28 career starts. Given UB’s struggles to throw downfield, you would think the Cardinals will play eight men in the box.
4. The long game. Sooner or later, UB has to hit a long pass. Tyree Jackson is 0 for 19 so far on deep sideline routes.
5. UB pass rush. Finally, UB pass rushers get to at least try to join the party. Albany, Nevada and Boston College all were run-first foes. Army and Kent State were run-mostly foes. This is the first true pro-style offense UB’s defense has faced. Maybe the edge rushers need to force Ball State QB Riley Neal into mistakes. Designated edge rusher Torey Hendrick hasn’t had many chances so far, due to the nature of the opposition. He should see more snaps Saturday. Hendrick, it should be noted, has been a stalwart on special teams, as UB coach Lance Leipold noted this week.