Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
Stan Parrish is happy the media has something new to talk about this week.
After spending much of the season dealing with questions about how he hasn’t won a game as a head coach in 23 years, his Ball State Cardinals defeated Eastern Michigan last week to put an end to the conversation.
“It’s just another negative when you’re not winning,” Parrish said. “You’re not winning, your coach can’t win. You know, it all snowballs at any level. Last week, I alluded to the Tennessee Titans. You think Jeff Fisher forgot how to coach? That’s just the nature of the beast right now. The good part is that we struggled, struggled, struggled, but we were on the road and got a win. That’s the biggest part of it and I’m so happy for the kids.”
Parrish hadn’t won a game in 35 tries. Parrish was 0-26-1 during his final 27 games as the head coach at Kansas State from 1986-88. He lost the GMAC bowl last season. And his Cardinals started this year 0-7 before a 29-27 victory over the Eagles in front of a 1,535 fans. Eastern Michigan is one of two winless teams in the Mid-American Conference.
Parrish said the burden was lifted off his team, more than himself, was tremendous. After taking over for Brady Hoke this season, Parrish knew it would be an uphill battle. The Cardinals were 12-2 last season, but lost their starting quarterback and most of their offensive line. The Cardinals have been hampered by youth and injuries, including starting quarterback Kelly Page, who was lost for the season. To beat Eastern Michigan, the Cardinals ran the ball 57 times for 463 yards. They completed just two passes for 1 yard.
But Parrish said the win might have been one of the most gratifying in his career.
“I’ve been in a Super Bowl locker room, I’ve been in a national championship locker room, I’ve been in a conference championship locker room and that one might have been happier than all of them,” Parrish said. “Isn’t that the funny part about football? A two-point win over a team that hadn’t won a game is that significant to the kids. And it makes you happy you do what you do. They were a very, very happy group of kids. Believe me, the burden of losing, particularly when we’ve worked so hard to build our program here. It’s been very tough on them. It was great. It was a nice bus ride back. Now we’ve got to get back to reality for Ohio U this week.”
Now the focus shifts toward keeping the momentum going. Ball State faces an Ohio team this week that is chasing after Temple for the MAC East title. Ohio leads the league in pass efficiency defense and turnovers. It’s forced and recovered 14 fumbles and intercepted 12 passes. Ohio also ranks third in total defense.
Parrish knows his team has an uphill climb to reach that second win. Three of the four teams remaining on Ball State’s schedule have winning records. Western Michigan is 4-4.
But at least the talk this week has been about a winning streak instead of a losing one.
“I’ve said all year long that we’ve had a million things happen to us and this has been an extremely tough journey that we didn’t expect, but we haven’t given up the ship ever in a ballgame and we’ve gotten better through some very tough losses for us,” Parrish said. “And I’m really happy for the kids and happy that journalists can find something else to write about to be honest with you.”