Tonight the Ball State Cardinals pay a visit to Tampa for their first-ever matchup with the South Florida Bulls, ranked #22 in the Associated Press poll. Game time is a little after 7:00pm, with tickets still available at the Raymond James Stadium box office. TV coverage is on Bright House Sports Network, ESPN 3, and various regional sports channels for anyone without access to those other options.
The Bulls have had an emotionally taxing week — a six-hour marathon win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in coach Skip Holtz’s return to his alma mater, and then the untimely passing of former athletic director Lee Roy Selmon, without whom there might not even be football at USF. The entire team attended Selmon’s memorial service on Friday, after Holtz told reporters that he was looking for way to ease off the throttle a little bit to give his team a chance to recharge and refocus for tonight’s game.
Ball State is coming off an emotional week of their own after knocking off Indiana 27-20 on a neutral field in Indianapolis. The Cardinals controlled the tempo in coach Pete Lembo’s debut, keeping the ball for over 36 minutes and converting 10 of 14 third downs. Quarterback Keith Wenning completed 23 of 29 passes for 173 yards and ran for another 61, accounting for three touchdowns as Ball State picked at the Hoosiers with short, effective plays. It was their second straight win over Indiana in their ongoing series, following a 42-20 whipping back in 2008, the year the Cardinals went 12-0 in the regular season under former coach Brady Hoke before losing the MAC championship game.
Lembo has coached against USF before — he spent the previous five seasons at Elon, an FCS school, and fell to the Bulls 28-13 in both teams’ 2007 season opener. Ball State has 17 returning starters and is not the pushover they were in Stan Parrish’s two seasons in Muncie. They can put quite a scare into USF if the Bulls aren’t able to get themselves focused on the game following this highly unusual week.