Iowa's Bo Bower can relate to Ball State quarterback
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Everyone loves it when a local kid makes good.
If you're an Iowa football fan, you may be infatuated with linebacker Bo Bower. If you're rooting for Ball State, quarterback Ozzie Mann is your guy.
Neither was a sure starter when summer workouts began, yet both will have a starring role in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game on ESPN2.
"(Mann) is a very humble, very grounded, very team-oriented guy," Cardinals coach Pete Lembo told the Muncie (Ind.) Star Press. "He's really a business-as-usual, it's-another-day-at-the-office kind of guy."
The 6-foot-1, 213-pound Mann grew up in Hartford City, Ind., which is 19 miles from the Ball State campus.
He spent three years as a reserve, watching former quarterback Keith Wenning lead the Cardinals to a 10-3 record in 2013.
The competition to replace Wenning began early this year, with Mann eventually earning the job in August.
"It was just kind of a blessing," Mann told the Star Press. "It's just kind of a dream come true."
That might sound a little familiar to Hawkeye followers.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Bower grew up in West Branch, located about 15 miles from Kinnick Stadium.
He arrived in Iowa City last summer as a walk-on, but received a scholarship two weeks ago.
"That was great," Bower said, "but we needed to be ready for a game. Scholarship or not, I want to play football."
Bower's debut came against Northern Iowa, and he made a key interception and recorded a sack.
"We were very focused on him during recruiting and just didn't pull the trigger on the scholarship," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We just always liked his attitude, and we thought he was a pretty good player.
"Last fall he really did a good job on the scout team and kind of flashed back there."
It's likely Bower and Mann will clash Saturday.
Ball State typically runs a "Hurry-up Spread," with an eye toward controlling the clock and tempo.
Mann is labeled as a game manager, using precision passing in a scheme that relies on hitches and screens.
The Cardinals also feature a talented running back combo with Jahwan Edwards (5-10, 216 pounds) providing power and Horactio Banks (5-8, 196 pounds) offering a quicker pace.
"They want to be balanced," Ferentz said. "They've got good play-action off their running game. Both backs are very productive."
Ball State rushed for 311 yards in a season-opening, 30-10 win against Colgate. Mann finished 20-of-32 for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa held Northern Iowa to 25 rushing yards but allowed 380 passing, including 203 yards by tailback David Johnson.
"We have work to do," Bower said. "We have to improve and we have to improve fast."
Defensively, the Cardinals open in a four-linemen, three-linebacker alignment, with rush end Michael Ayers occasionally dropping back into coverage.
Sophomore linebacker Aaron Taylor is versatile enough to contribute on nickel packages.
"It looks like the idea is to be aggressive with the secondary," Ferentz said of Ball State, "try to get up the field on you a little bit and be disruptive."