Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl has plenty of perks for Ball State Cardinals
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - It was a thrill for senior center Dan Manick to learn he and his his Cardinal football teammates were headed to Florida to play in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl against Central Florida.
BSU Coach Pete Lembo and his staff gathered the 9-3 Cardinals briefly Sunday night after the bowl hosts announced the big game on Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla..
Manick of Dyer, and defensive tackle Brandon Newman of Louisville, Ky., were on hand at Monday's media gathering as the big post season game with more details were discussed by Lembo.
Manick also learned from an ESPN scroll that Central Florida is the biggest school in Florida, with an enrollment of 51,000, compared to Ball State with 21,053.. Lembo chimed in that the school just built a new stadium that holds 40,000 fans and the school was bumping up to the Big East Conference next year after losing Saturday to Tulsa in the Conference USA conference.
Lembo explained that Central Florida had big defenders and plenty of playmakers, besides having all the resources with a big enrollment and being located in the Disneyworld capital of Orlando, Fla. where the game will be played at the Topicana Field.
Central Florida's coach, George O'Leary, has been around nearly a decade and the Knights are 9-4 and were once a member of the Mid-American Conference.
All that said, Lembo expected his team to play hard and make the university proud as practice begins immediately amid finals next week and the game coming just before Christmas.
That's even with star quarterback Keith Wenning still questionable for the bowl game and backup quarterback Kelly Page out with a concussion. Lembo was confident that Page would be ready for the bowl game.
History has found Ball State losing every bowl game they played including the last two, GMAC, and International, during the past decade.
Lembo has made remarkable progress bringing the team back from their last winning season to a team that can score an average of 35 points a game But Ball State was not in the MAC championship that was won by North Illinois that got a BCS Orange Bowl spot playing Florida State.
Kent State, runner up in the MAC is playing Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl, and Toledo is playing Utah State in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Florida trip, considered big money by any bowl expectation, gives Ball State a destination that has plenty of alumni, a recruiting ground already tapped, and an easy and economical travel.
Lembo said the university recruited several players from Florida that include safety Jarrett Swaby and wide receiver Willie Snead, both of Belle Glade, Fla., and cornerback Eric Patterson of Tampa, Fla. And Swaby played for Central Florida before coming to Ball State.
The trip involves getting air travel for more than 100 team members besides dozens of sports staff and BSU dignitaries. And Lembo said it will a trip to remember with the game televised by ESPN and Ball State coming off of six straight wins while beating Toledo on the road and also winning over South Florida.