The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl matches up the Ball State Cardinals of the MAC and the UCF Knights of Conference USA. The game is set up to to be a high-scoring affair with plenty of offense from both sides but the outcome could hinge on a late defensive stand or two in crunch time. The player who could step up and deliver that for UCF is safety Kemal Ishmael.
The Knights sported one of the best defenses in C-USA this season. They ranked as the No. 22 overall defense in the country for total yards allowed and led Conference USA in scoring defense, allowing 22.5 points per game, good for No. 29 in FBS. The defense backed up the Knights’ prolific offensive attack to a C-USA East division title and were an overtime heartbreak loss away from the conference title.
Ball State comes into the game riding a six-game winning streak keyed by an offense that is averaging 35 points per game this season. The Cardinals have shown they can rack up the offense in a hurry, running for at least 220 yards seven times this season. UCF will have to slow down the Ball State running game and force Cardinals’ quarterback Keith Wenning to try and win the game with his arm.
That’s when Ishmael will make his impact. The ball-hawking safety had three interceptions this season along with three forced fumbles. He’s an impact player for the Knights, making 116 tackles this season with a sack to go along with his turnovers. He was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year for his ability to impact a game, and he’ll be the X-factor for UCF tonight against Ball State.
Wenning has shown that he can be rattled in the pocket. In two losses this season against the Clemson Tigers and Northern Illinois Huskies, the Cardinals’ QB threw four total interceptions. He can make mistakes and the Knights have to be ready to take advantage of it.
Both teams have shown that they can score points in bunches. The difference in tonight’s game will be which team can rise up on defense and make stops and force turnovers when it matters. In a game where every possession could matter and the winner may be decided by whoever has the ball last, turnovers could be what turns the tide.
For UCF, Kemal Ishmael is the man to create those turnovers and bring a bowl win back to Orlando.