The Black Knights (1-6) run an unconventional offense that Lembo's Cardinals (5-3) haven't seen all year, nor will they see again.
Oh, and according to Lembo, Ball State is even playing this particular opponent at the wrong time of year.
“When you play an option team early in the season, you can justify dedicating some practice time during preseason camp, or perhaps even during spring practice, to that cause,” Lembo said. “You feel like there would be some carry over to that teaching. But when you play this late in the season, it really wouldn't be beneficial to invest that time.”
So where Lembo and his coaching staff is this week is trying to cram a lot of information on how to defend this complex offensive scheme into four days of practice.
“It's very difficult,” Lembo said. “On all fronts it is very difficult to do. We've talked a lot about our schedule and we never complain about it. It is what it is. You go do what you have to do. But in an ideal world, if you are going to play Army, you'd like to play them early.”
The Cardinals played the Black Knights early (September 24) a year ago and smoked them 48-21. But Lembo – and he's not just delivering coach speak to stem overconfidence in his players – believes that game was an anomaly.
“That game was really a perfect storm for us,” Lembo said. “Everything just seemed to come together the way that you would like it to. If we would have played them 20 times last year, the way that last year's game played out would have been the one in 20.”
Lembo cited the reasons for Army being more challenging later in the year are the depth that the Black Knights have on their roster, as well as the repetitive nature of their attack. Army doesn't alter what they do against varying opponents; it forces the opponents to change their schemes against it.”
“What happens with these option teams is they work at the same stuff all the time,” Lembo said. “Their game plans don't change a whole lot. They know how to attack certain defensive packages and they know what all of the adjustments are. Week to week to week, they just keep working.”
According to Lembo, because of the difficulty of preparing for similar offenses all season, with the exception of one week, there are college football programs that refuse to schedule any of the military service academies. It's simply not worth the headache.
“(The academies) tend to get better as the year goes on,” Lembo said. “For you, you might be getting better defending one back (sets), or an inside zone, and then all of a sudden you've got to shelf everything that you do and worry about this for a week. But the bottom line is can you beat them?”