MUNCIE – All coaches dig deep to find that right cord to strike within their players to bring out their best.
But rarely does a coach look to Wall Street to do so. Well Pete Lembo does.
“If he sees guys on their phone he asks if they are checking their stocks and that kinda stuff,” said Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning of his coach. “Just jokingly but he’s just having good fun with it.”
What the third year coach of the Cardinals refers to when he bring it up is the stock market-using it not only as a conversation starter or to lighten the mood but also to compare the growth of his players.
Following Ball State’s 41-14 win over Army in early September, the coach was asked how he would describe the continued improvement of his senior quarterback from year one to year four.
For his answer, Lembo went to a familiar place.
“He’s been like that good solid stock, like Proctor and Gamble or something,” said Lembo of Wenning. “The kind of guy you want in your portfolio. So maybe you’ll be able to retire someday.”
Neither Lembo or Wenning will be doing that anytime soon, but the continued climb of the quarterback’s stock could make the Cardinals a contender for a Mid-American Conference Championship.
Through four games-which Ball State owns a 3-1 record-Wenning has thrown for 1,315 yards and nine touchdowns compared to just two interceptions.
“It’s been a gradual improvement across the board,” said Lembo of Wenning through the years.” He’s a student of the game. A leader in the locker room. Athletically, he’s changed his body from a strength and conditioning standpoint.”
Such improvement is in the statistics, which have shown Wenning’s growth as a quarterback. Since making his Cardinals’ debut in 2010, Wenning has seen an increase each season in his number of yards thrown, touchdowns, completion percentage and quarterback rating.
At the same time, his interceptions have come down, with his 14 in 2010 reducing to 10 in 2012 despite more throwing attempts.
“Big thing that I’ve improved on is not only understanding what the 11 guys on offense are doing but all 22 people on the field,” said Wenning of his improvement year-to-year. “Being better at the small things. Staying on track on offense, getting better anyway possible. If that’s numbers, what not, being a better offense in general.”
Lembo not only credits Wenning’s work ethic to his improved performance but also his blue-collar attitude which he has seen since taking over the Ball State program in 2011.
“He’s very humble. He’s a very humble guy. He’s not full of himself. He doesn’t have a big ego,” said Lembo of Wenning. “He takes criticism very well. He’ll be in their tomorrow and he’ll be hard on himself in a good way about the things he didn’t do well.
“That’s what I like about him. There’s a little bit of fear of failure, which is a good thing. There is a real sense of humility and he’s willing to take responsibility for our offense and obviously that responsibility should be spread around but a lionshare is always going through the quarterback.”
Where does Wenning credit this? To his upbringing in Ohio.
“It all falls back on how I was raised. My parents, high school coaches, they always told me to remember where I come from,” said Wenning. “Remember who I really am and what really matters. I fall back on that kinda stuff.
“The success and all the other people from the outside saying good stuff is good but I know it’s really important.”
Especially if he wants that stock to continue to rise during his final season in Muncie.