Monday, November 24, 2008

For These Cards, It's All About Attitude

Attitude: Blame No One. Expect Nothing. Do Something. That's the mantra written on the wall where the media meets with Coach Hoke and the players after each Ball State game at Scheumann Stadium. Unlike big budget programs, it's evident that this "media room" doubles as a makeshift meeting room, coach's office, and multipurpose room through the week, and that mantra glares down on coaches and players alike as they prepare for their next opponent. It's evident that these Cardinals have taken it to heart and taken nothing for granted as this special season rolls on. Their intensity and fire has yet to wane, and they stand just one win away from a 12-0 regular season and berth in the MAC Championship game.

When it comes to blame, there is plenty to go around for this dream season. It could start with Nate Davis, potential All-MAC QB, who has done nothing except toss for over 2800 yards and throw 24 TD passes, all while compiling Top 10 efficiency stats, completing over 68% of his passes. You could blame MiQuale Lewis, who has quietly placed himself among the nation's elite backs, rushing for 17 scores and over 1400 yards. Perhaps the offensive line is to blame, anchored by seniors Andre Ramsey, Dan Gerberry, and Robert Brewster. Perhaps it's the impact freshmen like Sean Baker or Briggs Orsbon. The Cardinals could have collapsed after Indiana and the loss of Dante Love, but they didn't. But maybe, just maybe, the blame starts right at the top of the Cardinal food chain with head coach Brady Hoke.

Hoke embodies his principle of attitude daily. It's evident in his press conferences and his media appearances, with his gravelly voice and quiet unassuming way. That changes on Saturdays. Or Tuesdays. Or whenever the Cardinals suit up. He coaches through the whistle, usually has lost his voice by halftime, and is constantly helping his players improve as the game goes on. Hoke, known mostly for his defensive involvement, still dabbles in all aspects of the game. Standing on the sideline for the Cardinals win over Northern Illinois, Hoke took it upon himself to chat with Nate Davis after every drive. He's tough, unrelenting, competitive, but still able to cut up with his players with the game in hand. And like the wall suggests, he expects nothing. Except effort. Unyielding, tenacious, relentless effort from whistle to whistle.

Hoke won't get himself in a tizzy about rankings, bowl projections, or the $17 million dollar BCS payday. In fact, after being asked about whether or not he has had a chance to sit and reflect on the season at hand and the sheer unprecedented success this Cardinals team has accomplished, Hoke gave a simple "not really" answer and moved on. It's been the M.O. of this Cardinals team in 2008. Head down, hard work, going week to week and focusing only on the task at hand. Truly playing only the next play and not worrying about where pollsters, pundits, or PCs rank them at the end of the day. They blame no one. They expect nothing. But these Cardinals are doing something. Something unprecedented. Something special. Something that no one expected, and no one will forget.

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