Ball State offers Clemson a different challenge
CLEMSON — Yes, Ball State is not a college football heavyweight, picked by some analysts to finish last in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division.
Who: Ball State (1-0) at No. 12 Clemson (1-0) ---- When:12:30 p.m. today ---- Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson ---- TV: ACC Network ---- Line: Clemson by 27
Yes, the school is known more for alum David Letterman than its football team.
Yes, there is little drama expected during Clemson’s home opener at 12:30 p.m. today as the No. 12 Tigers (1-0) enter as 27-point favorites.
But despite the Cardinals’ non-power conference status, Ball State (1-0) and its quarterback Keith Wenning present Clemson’s defense with a different challenge this week. The Cardinals possess a potent passing game, something Auburn did not have last week.
Wenning completed 64 percent of his passes last season and threw for 2,786 yards. He threw for 267 yards in Ball State’s season-opening win against Eastern Michigan.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been concerned about his secondary since the spring. Moreover, Clemson’s pass rush wasn’t great in the opener and Clemson allowed 5.6 yards per rush when taking away sack yardage.
“We have to defend things better across the board,” Venables said. “I’d run out of fingers and toes on all the things we have to get better at. But that’s pretty typical for the first game of the year.
“This week is another set of new challenges. Whether you’re fighting the mental aspect or the physical aspect, there’s always a storyline behind it.”
Venables said Ball State runs one of the more sophisticated spread offenses Clemson will face this year.
“They’re not just running plays and hoping they work,” he said.
Clemson’s game today and next week’s game against Furman could serve as de facto preseason games, if the Tigers can build comfortable leads.
The next two weeks can offer Clemson a chance to evaluate players and gain experience leading up to the ACC opener at Florida State on Sept. 22.
Still, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney reminded his team that it trailed Troy, 16-13, at the half last year and Clemson was tied with Wofford at halftime.
“(Ball State) is a solid team. I know people don’t want to hear it but these guys are going to make some plays,” Swinney said. “This quarterback is very good. They have skill guys that can do some things and they know what they are doing.”