Brady Hoke played on Ball State’s first 10-win team in 1978. Now the coach of the Cardinals’ second 10-win squad, Hoke is looking to add a chapter to the program’s history Wednesday night when Ball State tries to reach 11 wins for the first time.
The No. 14 Cardinals (10-0, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) face Central Michigan in a battle for first place in the West Division, as the Chippewas look to lock up the division crown.
A linebacker with the Cardinals from 1977-80, Hoke was third on the team with 99 tackles in 1978 as Ball State won the conference title and finished 10-1. The sixth-year coach saw his Cardinals tie that team’s record Nov. 11 with a 31-16 victory over Miami of Ohio.
“It is an accomplishment, but we’ve got to win the conference championship,” Hoke said. “We’ve weathered 10 storms. We’ve got two more to go. Believe me, those will be the biggest challenges.”
The first of those two challenges for Ball State - which is ranked 17th in the BCS standings - is Central Michigan (8-2, 6-0), the only other MAC team without a conference loss and the two-time defending league champs. The Chippewas have won the last four meetings, the most recent being a 58-38 victory at Ball State last Oct. 6 - a result that has lingered for the Cardinals.
“What they did to us last year in our stadium - everybody’s got that in the back of their heads,” running back MiQuale Lewis said.
Lewis ran for 165 yards and two scores against Miami, and has eight 100-yard games on the season and a rushing touchdown in nine consecutive contests. He’s rolled up 1,273 yards and 17 TDs in 2008, but will be facing Central Michigan for the first time after having injuries cut short his previous two seasons.
Ball State’s Nate Davis, who threw for 289 yards and a touchdown versus Miami, is eighth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a passer rating of 168.0. He’s completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 2,647 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Cardinals are 12th in the FBS with 461.0 yards of offense per game and 15th in scoring with 37.6 points.
Central Michigan can clinch its third straight West Division title and a spot in the MAC championship game with a victory. The Chippewas, though, may have been looking ahead to this game, as they blew a 24-point second-half lead at Northern Illinois last Wednesday before pulling out a 33-30 overtime victory.
Andrew Aguila’s 40-yard field goal gave Central Michigan a sweep of a three-game road stretch, the wins coming by a combined seven points.
“We made some mistakes that will get corrected, but with all the adversity we had in the second half, no one stopped believing,” said Chippewas coach Butch Jones, whose team has won six in a row. “Every game has been like this, but it shapes you, it molds you. Sometimes a win like this is better than winning big because our kids have been tested.”
Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour is coming off perhaps his best all-around game of the season, totaling 310 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 189 yards and two scores while adding a season-high 121 rushing yards and two TDs.
LeFevour threw for 360 yards and a career-high five touchdowns against Ball State last year, and piled up a then-school record 506 yards of offense as Central Michigan rolled up a school-record 658 yards.
Central Michigan is playing its second ranked opponent of the season, having lost 56-17 to then-No. 2 Georgia on Sept. 6. The Chippewas are 1-8 all-time versus Top 25 teams.
This is will be just their second home game against a ranked foe, the other being a 40-24 loss to then-No. 17 Northern Illinois in 2003.