Middle linebacker Matt Mayberry knows he and rest of the Hoosier defense will have their hands full on Saturday with a Ball State offense that features wide receiver Dante Love and quarterback Nate Davis.
Following their early bye week, Indiana has had plenty of time to prepare for one of the top offenses in the FCS. The Cardinals’ average of nearly 490 yards of total offense per game is good enough for 16th in the NCAA rankings.
Coach Lynch is making sure his team isn’t looking past Ball State and into next week’s conference opener against Michigan State, according to Mayberry.
“Like coach always says, a win is a win and we are really looking forward to playing Ball State, we can’t wait for Saturday,” Mayberry said. “We’ve got to show up every week and keep proving ourselves.”
For Mayberry, proving himself began late last season, when an injury to linebacker Adam McClurg gave the 6’2", 245 pound workhorse the opportunity to contribute.
Mayberry seized the opportunity to be the next starting middle linebacker and hasn’t since looked back.
“The Big Ten conference is all big,” Mayberry explained. “You’ve got to be big, fast, strong and smart; you’ve got to have everything.”
Well aware of this, Matt spent his summer in Naperville, Illinois, training to improve upon his speed and acceleration. Current Cleveland Brown and former Iowa wideout Kevin Kasper, a graduate of the same high school as Mayberry, trains athletes there in his time off.
After spending the summer with Kasper and training with former Notre Dame standout Tom Zbikowski, Mayberry returned to Bloomington in peak physical condition, faster than ever.
Come Saturday, Matt will have a great opportunity to showcase his speed. Mayberry understands that Cardinals head coach Brady Hoke likes to get the ball to Love over the middle of the field, creating the ideal match up for a linebacker with the size and speed that Mayberry possesses.
“My speed is to the top right now and Dante Love is a fast ballplayer, but I’m fast too,” Mayberry added. “We should be going at it pretty good.”
Third on the team in tackles with ten this season, Mayberry may be asked to play an even bigger role this weekend than he has in games past with the possible loss of starting strong safety Austin Thomas. According to Coach Lynch, Thomas’ status is uncertain and his role on Saturday, if any, will be a game time decision.
Luckily for the Hoosiers, Mayberry’s sore ankle, which sidelined him in practice earlier in the week, seems to no longer be an issue.
Other than a few minor differences, the Cardinals essentially run the same spread offense as Indiana. Their strength is in moving the ball through the air, but the ground attack has been almost equally as effective this season.
“(Ball State) does a great job of moving the ball around. Saturday will be the first great test for this defense,” said Mayberry.