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Ball State reached a point during this football season that only two other squads in program history had done, as it won nine games. A number of factors were part of that success, including a horde of talent and on Wednesday, the Cardinals were honored for such.
The Mid-American Conference named its All-MAC teams and 13 Cardinal players were recognized for their play.
Ball State had five individuals named to the All-MAC First Team, while three were second team selections and five were chosen to the All-MAC Third Team. In all, the Cardinals had 15 players recognized, which was the most by any league school.
“I am very proud of the progress that these guys made over the last two years,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. “It takes a lot of commitment on a daily basis to improve to where you get recognized by the other teams in the conference.”
Zane Fakes (tight end), Austin Holtz (offensive line), Steven Schott (place kicker), Jamill Smith (wide receiver) and Willie Snead (wide receiver) were named to the All-MAC First Team, as selected by the league's 13 head coaches.
Travis Freeman (linebacker), Jonathan Newsome (defensive end) and Keith Wenning (quarterback) were named to the All-MAC Second Team.
Jahwan Edwards (running back), Jordan Hansel (offensive line), Cameron Lowry (offensive line), Nathan Ollie (defensive tackle) and Eric Patterson (defensive back) were named to the All-MAC Third Team, while Smith was named the third-team punt return specialist and kick return specialist.
Fakes has made nine starts in 2012 and 27 in his career. He has managed 51 receptions for 404 yards with five touchdowns this season. Zakes 51 catches ranks fourth among tight ends in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Holtz, who started all 12 games for the Cardinals this season, anchored an offensive line that blocked for Wenning's 2,878 passing yards and the 1,321 rushing yards by Edwards. Holtz has started 32 games in his four seasons, and has helped Ball State to tie for eighth in the nation in 2012 for fewest sacks allowed with a 0.83 per game average.
Schott, who was one of the semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award which goes to the nation's most outstanding placekicker , is tied for second in the nation with two field goals made per game and is tied for first nationally with 24 made field goals.
Smith has 69 catches for 706 yards with six touchdowns this season. In addition, he is averaging 25.8 yards per kickoff return and 13.8 yards per punt return. Smith is 23rd in the nation in all-purpose yards with a 142.83 average per game, and is 28th in the nation in kickoff returns with a 25.84 average.
Freeman leads the Cardinals with 119 total tackles plus has one tackle for loss, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble in 2012. He is tied for 21st in the nation in tackles with a 9.92 per game average, and is the NCAA leader among active players with 455 career tackles. Freeman also earned second team honors in 2011.
Newsome managed 51 total tackles on the season and led Ball State with 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also added one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries in 2012. Newsome ranks 19th in the country with 0.85 sacks per game and is 39th in the nation with 1.20 tackles for loss per contest.
Wenning has completed 279-of-426 passes for 2,878 yards with 22 touchdowns in 2012. The 279 completions is the second highest single season total in Ball State history, behind only his school record 287 completions in 2011. The 426 pass attempts ranks as the third best in school history, behind the 478 by Nate Davis in 2008 and Wenning's 449 in 2011. The 2,878 passing yards ranks as the third best single season effort in school annals. His 22 touchdown passes is the third best total in a season in Ball State history.
Edwards has rushed for 1,321 yards and 14 touchdowns on 218 carries in 2012. The 1,321 rushing yards is the third best mark in a single season in Ball State history, while the 14 scores is the fourth best single season mark and the 218 carries ranks 10th all-time for the Cardinals. Edwards had a string of five straight 100-yard rushing games come to an end in the season finale at Miami University, when he rushed for 98 yards vs. the RedHawks. Edwards rushed for a career high 200 yards and set his career high with three touchdowns vs. Eastern Michigan, and then rushed for three scores vs. Western Michigan and at Miami University.
Hansel and Lowry were also a part of Ball State's offensive line that has helped Wenning and Edwards to record setting seasons. Hansel, who was named to the 2011 All-MAC Second Team, started 11 games in 2012. Lowry has started 10 games this season and 30 in his career.
Ollie, a 2011 All-MAC Second Team selection, started his 24th straight game in the regular season finale. He has managed 48 tackles in 2012 with 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry. Ollie tallied a career high nine tackles at Army, and was named the MAC West Division Player of the Week after his performance in Ball State's win at Central Michigan – five tackles, two TFLs, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Patterson ranks fourth for the Cardinals with 60 tackles plus has 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a team high eight pass breakups in 2012. He has started 10 games this season and managed a career high 10 tackles vs. Ohio.
Sean Baker made quite an impression on the Tampa Bay Buccaneer coaching staff during training camp this past summer, yet was one of the final players released in August. However, the 2012 graduate of Ball State and a four-year letterman for the Cardinals' football team got a call-back on Wednesday and signed a contract with the NFL franchise.
“I am happy for Sean,” Lembo said. “When he got released in August, we talked and he was at peace with his future. But I am thrilled that he is getting another shot.”
He originally signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent last spring. Baker will be a member of the Buccaneers' practice squad.
An undrafted free agent safety, Baker was invited to Tampa Bay's rookie mini-camp on a tryout contract. In the final preseason game of the year, Baker tallied six tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery in the team's 30-3 win over the Washington Redskins.
A two-time team captain, Baker was an All-Mid-American Conference First-Team selection in 2011 as a senior after earning second team honors in 2010. He earned Ball State's John Magnabosco Award as the team's most valuable player in 2010 after being a co-recipient in 2011.
Baker set the Ball State career record for interceptions as a junior and completed his four seasons with 18. He was the first player in Ball State history to return two fumbles for touchdowns in a career -- at Buffalo in 2010 and at Indiana in 2008. Baker, who had four multiple interception games in his career, was the active leader in career interceptions among all Football Bowl Subdivision players in 2011.