MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) - There are plenty of cliches about being
close. It doesn't cut it. It only counts in horseshoes and hand
grenades. So close, but so far.
Bottom line: close equals not, and Morehead State's football
team, eight times out of 11 last season, did not get it done.
They were close a few times, though. Four of the losses were by
less than 10 points, including a heartbreaker against eventual
Pioneer Football League champion Butler. The Eagles led 21-0 before
falling in overtime.
So one of the biggest questions for coach Matt Ballard was how
to flip those close games in Morehead's favor.
Injuries to key players last season didn't help, as many younger
players had to fill in for injured veterans. Ballard estimated that
18 of his players who should have been redshirted last season ended
up seeing playing time.
"It was the worst season of injuries I've ever seen," Ballard
said. "You don't see any 1-year-olds winning the Kentucky Derby.
We gotta keep our thoroughbreds in the race."
The Eagles will also have to maintain their effort until the
final horn when they have the lead or a game is close, Ballard
His players know, from watching video of themselves from last
season, that they're going to have to push through for a chance to
be successful this season.
"The evidence was on the film," Ballard said. "They know how
close they were."
Junior tackle Brad Seger is one of the thoroughbreds the Eagles
missed for most of last season after he suffered a season-ending
injury during the second game. This season, Ballard expects a
healthy Seger to be the anchor on an offensive line that returns
"He is our take charge aggressive nasty leader out there,"
Ballard said. "He's one of those offensive linemen with that
defensive linemen mentality. He'd like to bite your head off."
One of the offensive line's biggest jobs will be to keep
defenders away from likely starting quarterback Zach Lewis, who set
a state record passing for 13,642 yards during his career at Clay
County High School. The sophomore played in seven games last
season, started two, and led the team in completions (86) and
passing yards (813). Ballard believes Lewis has the potential to
put up gaudy stats in college, just like he did in high school.
"His numbers are gonna get even more ridiculous here," the
coach said. "You talk about vision, you talk about quick release?
Buddy, let me tell you something - this guy's got it. And he's
still a puppy."
Junior running back Desmond Cox's 80 carries led the team last
season and will likely do most of the work on the ground for the
Eagles again this season. Cox is stronger than he was last season,
Ballard said, and should be able to fight for more tough yards as
well as make people miss.
On defense, the Eagles have some holes to fill. Gone from last
season's team are linebacker Wes McDermott and defensive lineman
Derick Steiner. McDermott led the team last season with 109
tackles, nearly double the second leading tackler's total.
"We were spoiled," Ballard said of having McDermott on his
defense. "I think some of our guys, when Wes was here, they just
stood around and watched him."
Replacing Steiner and McDermott will be done by committee,
"We don't have any one or any two that can do the things those
guys could do," the coach said. "The key is, we gotta make the
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)