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MAC fracas pits Chippewas against Cardinals

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Updated: 11/05/2013 9:23 am

Muncie, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The Central Michigan Chippewas will try to pull off another road upset as they visit the Ball State Cardinals on Wednesday for a Mid-American Conference battle at Scheumann Stadium.

Although the Chippewas enter the game with a 3-5 overall record, they are 2-2 in conference action thanks to back-to-back road victories over Miami-Ohio and Ohio University. CMU returned home to on Oct. 19 to have its two-game winning streak snapped with a 38-17 loss to NorthernIllinois. CMU also began the 2012 season with only three wins through its first eight games. After experiencing another loss to fall into an even deeper hole, coach Dan Enos guided his squad to three straight wins to become bowl eligible before its 24-21 win over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesar's Bowl. The Chippewas should be well rested for another late-season push after being idle for 18 days.

NIU has hogged the spotlight this season as it still has yet to experience a loss thanks to the stellar play of quarterback Jordan Lynch. Ball State has not been quite as heralded as the Huskies despite only having one loss through its first nine games. Coach Pete Lembo's team is currently tied with NIU for first place in the West Division as both have gone 5-0 thus far. The Cardinals will look to build some momentum versus the Chippewas before next week's visit to DeKalb.

A Ball State win would increase its overall winning streak to seven games and its number of consecutive MAC wins to 11. The Cardinals, who are 4-0 at home this season, rolled past Akron for a 42-24 decision to notch their third decision by a double-digit margin over their past four games.

BSU has won its last three meetings with the Chippewas to tie the all-time series at 22-22-1. The Cardinals' offense proved to be too powerful in last season's encounter as they downed CMU, 41-30, in Mount Pleasant.

The Chippewas are ranked in the lower half of the MAC in scoring with their average of 18.6 ppg after failing to reach 30 points at any stage this season. The future appears to be bright for CMU as redshirt freshman Cooper Rush has shown he has the tools to be an all-conference caliber quarterback once his decision making and pocket presence improves. Rush hit on 16-of-32 pass attempts for 271 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the loss to NIU. On the season, Rush has amassed 1,575 yards and 11 touchdowns on 119- of-220 efficiency. He has tossed 11 touchdown passes, but has also been picked off 10 times.

Titus Davis went into the back-to-back bye weeks on a strong note with five catches for 109 yards and a score versus the Huskies. Andrew Flory also finished with five receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. Davis has made a catch in all 31 games of his career and is the third in the MAC with 89.6 receiving yards per contest.

CMU's brief winning streak was powered by the sensational play of sophomore tailback Saylor Lavallii, who amassed 335 rushing yards on 51 attempts during the two-game span. The success did not continue as NIU managed to hold Lavallii to just 53 yards with 3.3 yards per carry.

The Chippewas have plenty of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball. They are ranked 11th among MAC schools in scoring defense with an allowance of 33.4 points per game although they are two spots better in total defense (435.6 ypg). CMU's opponents are also posting 409 total yards of offense per outing. Enos has a very capable pair of linebackers in Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton, who are tied for the conference lead with 84 total stops each. The duo has combined for 426 tackles over the last 21 games, an average of over 20 tackles per game.

The Chippewas are going to need to step up their play to contain the Cardinals, who are the second most productive team in the conference with 467.6 total yards of offense and 39.4 points per tilt. BSU is ranked 15th nationally in passing offense (325.7 ypg) thanks to the remarkable play of Keith Wenning, who is the only FBS quarterback with at least 300 yards through the air in eight games this season. Wenning ranks second in the nation with 2,865 passing yards and has thrown a MAC-leading 23 touchdown passes with just five interceptions.

Akron had no answer for the Cardinals' senior signal caller last week as he completed 25-of-35 attempts to tally 240 yards and five touchdowns. Jordan Williams paced the receiving corps with 12 catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns, while Willie Snead had seven catches for 100 yards and a pair of TDs. On the ground, Jahwan Edwards carried 25 times for 120 yards and a score for the Cardinals. Snead has already racked up 1,057 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 65 receptions to lead the MAC in all three categories. Since returning from an injury that forced him to miss a couple games, Edwards has scored 12 TDs in seven games.

BSU's defense has held every one of its opponents besides North Texas under 30 points this season and is in the middle of the pack in the conference with 422.4 yards allowed per game. Ben Ingle is the leader of the defensive unit with 74 total tackles. Brian Jones has also been a force with 69 stops, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. The Cardinals have kept their opposition off the board by registering 23 takeaways, which is the most among FBS schools.

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