GMAC Bowl Preview
Mobile, AL - Star quarterback Nate Davis has decided to stay with Ball State even though he's good enough to move on.
Coach Brady Hoke has decided not to make such a commitment.
With Hoke having landed a new job, Davis looks to bounce back from his worst effort of the season when the 23rd-ranked Cardinals face Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl at Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 6.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made Ball State –2.5 point spread favorites for the GMAC Bowl against Tulsa. Current College Fooball Public Betting Information shows that 54% of more than 1,613 bets for this game have been placed on the Ball State –2.5.
Hoke, who has gone 34-38 in six seasons with Ball State (12-1), will coach San Diego State next season and has decided not to lead the Cardinals in their second straight bowl game. It's uncertain who will take on head coaching duties for Ball State.
The Cardinals are led by Davis, the Mid-American Conference offensive player of the year. Davis has been watched closely by NFL scouts, but has decided to return for his senior year.
"I will come back," Davis said. "There's no doubt about it. It's been the plan all along."
Davis has passed for 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and his 3,446 yards have made him the first quarterback in Cardinals history to throw for more than 3,000 in a season twice. In 2007, he passed for 3,667 yards to become the first Ball State player to ever reach 3,000.
This will be a matchup of two of the nation's top quarterbacks, with David Johnson having an outstanding season for the Golden Hurricane (10-3). Davis and Johnson rank among the top 10 in the nation in passing efficiency, but both players stumbled in their respective conference championship games.
Davis played a part in each of Ball State's four fumbles in a 42-24 loss to Buffalo in the MAC championship on Dec. 5, a defeat that dropped the Cardinals from No. 12 in the poll and ended their shot at a perfect season.
Buffalo returned two of the fumbles for touchdowns and turned the other two into TDs.
Davis was also picked off once while throwing one TD pass. It was his second INT in five games, and it came with NFL scouts in attendance.
Johnson threw a career-high five INTs in the Golden Hurricane's 27-24 loss to East Carolina in the Conference USA championship game on Dec. 6. It was the third loss in five games for Tulsa, and the first time Johnson had ever thrown more than two interceptions.
"Naturally, we're disappointed we didn't win the Conference USA championship, but on the same hand we're very excited to have the opportunity to represent Conference USA at the GMAC Bowl and play an opponent like Ball State," Tulsa coach Todd Graham said. "They're a 12-1 team and a nationally ranked team which is what we're excited about."
Davis and Johnson can bounce back in a hurry, and this matchup is expected to be high scoring as both teams boast top offenses.
The Cardinals have set a team record with 476 points and rank 17th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 36.6 points a contest.
Davis is complemented by an outstanding running game. MiQuale Lewis is one of the nation's most productive backs, compiling 1,701 yards and 22 TDs in his first season as Ball State's featured ball carrier.
Tarrion Adams is the workhorse for Tulsa, rushing for 1,341 yard and 11 TDs. The Golden Hurricane rank eighth in the nation in rushing, averaging 254.8 yards per game.
But Tulsa, second in the nation with 565.0 yards a contest, is clearly led by Johnson. The senior is second in the nation with a 179.6 passer rating, completing 64.8 percent of his attempts for 3,866 yards and 43 TDs against 11 INTs in his first season as a starter.
The normally efficient Johnson had thrown 13 interceptions in 12 games before the Conference USA championship, but was off target from the start. He threw an interception on the first play of the game.
"I always tell them to keep plugging, to go to the next snap, to forget what is behind you and press forward like we do every game," Graham said.
Tulsa was held to a season-low 399 yards, and Johnson finished with 195 yards on 23-for-42 passing. It was only the third time this season he was held below 200 yards.
The Golden Hurricane are making their fourth straight bowl appearance.
Tulsa beat Bowling Green 63-7 in last season's GMAC Bowl. It was the largest margin of victory in bowl history, topping Alabama's 61-6 win over Syracuse in the 1953 Orange Bowl.
Ball State is 0-6 in bowl games. The Cardinals lost 52-30 to Rutgers in last season's International Bowl despite getting three TD passes from Davis.
This will be the first meeting between Ball State and Tulsa.
GMAC Bowl Key Player Injuries:
(!) [WR] Dante Love is out for the season. - Neck - 09/22/08
[DE] Justin Woodard is out for the season - Leg - 10/21/08
[OL] Justin Morsey injured last game, %27?%27 - Undisclosed - 12/02/08
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Posted: 12/16/08 10:37PM ET