Ball St.-Oklahoma Preview
A lackluster start in its most recent game helped cost Oklahoma the No. 1 ranking. Its players are hoping that performance will serve as a wake-up call.
The No. 2 Sooners will try to take a step toward regaining that top spot with a strong showing in Saturday night's non-conference finale against Ball State.
After a hard-fought road win over a ranked Florida State team, Oklahoma trailed for the first time in 21 home games during last Saturday's Big 12 opener against Missouri.
The Sooners recovered from that 14-3 deficit by scoring 28 straight points en route to a 38-28 victory. They led by 17 until conceding a late touchdown.
Despite that win, Oklahoma dropped behind LSU in the rankings after the Tigers rolled to a 47-21 victory at then-No. 16 West Virginia.
"To be a top-caliber team and to win a national championship and play like this, it's not going to happen," linebacker and defensive captain Travis Lewis said. "Hopefully it's a reality check to these players and to this team that it's going to take our best every week."
Landry Jones threw for a season-high 448 yards and three touchdowns to Ryan Broyles but also had two interceptions for the second straight game. Oklahoma (3-0) also gave up 532 yards - the most since allowing 549 in a loss to Texas Tech in 2009 - but might have an easier time in its first matchup with the Cardinals (3-1).
"We're approaching it like any other game," defensive end David King said. "We can't go in there in with the wrong mindset. That's how they beat you. We're not going to hold anything back. If anything, we're picking it up based on how we played last week."
Ball State currently ranks 70th offensively in FBS (388.3 yards per game) and 71st in scoring (27.5 points per game). The Cardinals have dropped 11 in a row to Top 25 opponents and will face a No. 2 team for only the second time in school history, having lost 34-26 at Michigan in 2006.
They suffered their only defeat this season at then-No. 22 South Florida on Sept. 10. Ball State rebounded from that 37-7 rout to edge Buffalo in the MAC opener, then topped Army 48-21 last Saturday.
Sophomore Keith Wenning completed 24 of 30 passes for a career-high 324 yards and three TDs in that game, and freshman Willie Snead caught 10 of those throws for 180 yards and a score. Fellow freshman Jahwan Edwards also scored three times on the ground as his team improved to 17 for 17 in the red zone this season.
At 3-1, Ball State is enjoying its best start since opening the 2008 season with 12 straight victories.
"This turned out to be a pretty good month of September," coach Pete Lembo said. "It probably exceeded my expectations just because we have such a long way to go in so many areas before we feel complete."
Lembo's team might not get any closer to feeling complete against Oklahoma, which has the nation's longest home win streak at 38 games.
The Sooners will be without center and team captain Ben Habern, who is out six to eight weeks after breaking his right arm in the win over Missouri. Gabe Ikard, a guard who filled in for Habern in last week's game, will likely start against Ball State.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills might return after sitting out the Missouri game with concussion-related symptoms. After being suspended for the opener against Tulsa, Stills had seven catches for a career-best 125 yards against Florida State and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 23-13 victory.
Fellow receiver Trey Franks remains suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules.