Ball State searches for answers during tough stretch

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

Ball State coach Stan Parrish had nothing good to say about his offense after Saturday’s 23-16 loss to FCS opponent New Hampshire.


“Obviously, we’re very disappointed with the way we played against New Hampshire, particularly offensively,” Parrish said during Monday’s MAC teleconference. “Probably the worst game in my five years here offensively. We weren’t good in any phase of anything we did. We didn’t protect the quarterback. He didn’t throw the ball well. We didn’t run the ball well.”

So, Parrish has decided to switch things up. Starting quarterback Kelly Page, who Parrish was high on since taking the job in December, will split time with backup Tanner Justice, who has yet to see any meaningful snaps during his career. It’s unclear who will start Saturday’s game against Army.

Page has struggled during his first two games, both losses, with the Cardinals. He’s 30-of-68 for 254 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Ball State offense ranks 114th in the country, last in the MAC, and is the antithesis of what it was a year ago when former quarterback Nate Davis led the charge and the team went 12-2.

So Parish is hoping to provoke some sort of spark this week heading into an unusually tough game against Army. In the past, Army has been a game that could get a losing team back on track, but behind new head coach Rich Ellerson, the Black Knights are playing inspired football and have shown to fight to get to 1-1 on the season. Parrish said he was concerned about Army’s “Arizona Desert Swarm” defense and how it would affect an offensive line that was brutalized against New Hampshire, giving up five sacks.

Parrish said he’s looking for anything to rally his team. Falling to 0-3 with games against Auburn and Toledo in the next two weeks would mean a tough turnaround to salvage even bowl eligibility.

“We’re trying to rally confidence within a very, very young group,” Parrish said. “It’s not an easy task, but they’re a very high-character group, some very talented young players and we just need to make some good things happen, particularly on offense.

“If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it right now. We’re going through a tough spot and we’ve just got to all hang together. Just got to let these kids be successful and we’ve got to get a plan to help them be successful.”