MUNCIE - In the two years since Pete Lembo arrived in Muncie to lead the Ball State football program, those around him have learned that he is just… well, different.
The veteran coach has passed out candy on Halloween to the media, writes a weekly newsletter giving insight into the Cardinals program for anyone who wants to stay up on the program, and he is a regular on Twitter.
But when the Cardinals (8-3, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) endured a recent rash of serious injuries and Lembo stated that he “was excited” about the situation, some may have thought the renaissance man had ventured a bit too far out into left field.
“I'm excited about it,” Lembo said. “I don't like to see guys get hurt, but I'm excited about the challenge.”
Lembo and his walking-wounded squad will visit Miami (Ohio) (4-7, 3-4) at 1 p.m. today.
The Cardinals lost the face of the franchise in quarterback Keith Wenning in their Nov. 14 victory over Ohio and he will not play today. In his place, fifth-year back-up Kelly Page played the entire second half against the Bobcats, and played well.
“Your immediate mindset is 'Kelly has to play well just like he did the other night,'” Lembo said. “I think about our team and this game becomes an even bigger challenge than just what Miami presents because of our situation.”
That “situation” involves Lembo having to look elsewhere for contributions at wide receiver (Jamill Smith is out), safety (Brian Jones is out), and just about his entire offensive line (guard Jordan Hansel is out, tackle Austin Holtz is questionable and center Dan Manick and guard/center Chris Sparrow are probable).
“Let's find out what we are all about here,” Lembo said. “Let's raise the bar and make this a great test for our program.”
Being tested along the offensive line will be junior tackle Matthew Page, freshman center Jacob Richard, and freshman guard Jalen Schlachter. They will be held responsible for protecting the quarterbacking Page, who if injured, then the Cardinals will really face a challenge due to the new backup quarterback being a freshman walk-on (Kyle Kamman).
“Let's find out where we are really at from a depth standpoint,” Lembo said. “How well can guys raise their level of play to fill in the gaps, so that we go over (to Miami) and get a win? So I'm excited about it. I really am.”
As far as implementing a different gameplan in order to hide the inexperienced players, Lembo didn't give much consideration to that.
“We're going to do what we do,” Lembo said. “We are not going to reinvent the wheel this week. We're not going to start to get outlandish with things. We believe in the guys that we have and we are going to do our best to put them in position to be successful. I'm really looking forward to it.”