Know Your Opponent: Does Ball State Have Enough To Stay With Indiana?

Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)

Head Coach: Mike Neu (1st Year)
Overall: 1-0 (1.000) 1st year
At Ball State 1-0 (0-0)
Bowl Appearances: 0
Last Years Record: 3-9 (2-6) 
Bowl Appearances Since 2000: 4 Appearances (0-4 Record)
Mascot: Charlie Cardinal
Colors: Cardinal and White
Outfitter: Nike
National Titles: 0
Conference Titles: 10
Heisman Winners: 0

Fun Fact

Ball State Cardinals football was established in the 1924 season and has a 431–384–32 record as of February 2014. Ball State has won 10 conference championships in football, most recently in 1996, and has appeared in six NCAA Division I postseason bowl games, most recently in 2014 playing Arkansas State University in the GoDaddy Bowl; the Cardinals have an 0–7 record for bowl game appearances. Ball State annually competes against conference rival Northern Illinois, playing for the Bronze Stalk Trophy; Ball State holds a 1–5 record in the contest.

1. Ball State Has Won The Last Three In The Series

The Cardinals have a 3-4 record all-time versus the Hoosiers, but have won the last three games in the series since 2008, including the first game of the Kevin Wilson Era in 2011 and a heart breaking loss in 2012 at Memorial Stadium. Coming into a Big Ten venue will not intimidate the Cardinals and has not dampened the enthusiasm of the fan base. While not the Old Oaken Bucket Game, this in-state matchup has become fiercely competitive over the last decade.

However, this is not the Ball State team that came into Memorial Stadium in 2008 and 2012. The Cardinals were 3-9 last season and are replacing former head coach Pete Lembo who left to take an assistant job at Maryland. Mike Neu comes from the NFL where he was the quarterback’s coach for the New Orleans Saints, but he has no head coaching experience.

2. Ball State’s Rushing Attack Will Test Indiana’s Defense

The Hoosiers passed their first test on defense when they accounted for 16 points, three takeaways, and held FIU to just 63 yards on the ground. This week, they will face a rushing attack that put up 325 yards and reached the end zone four times.

Ball State has two running backs that will see the majority of the carries. The lead back is James Gilbert, a powerful runner with a burst. He gashed Georgia State for 160 yards and two on 29 carries in a 31-21 win in their season opener. He has the ability to make defenders miss and if they don’t he can wear them down. Indiana won’t catch a break when Gilbert is on the sideline. Ball State has another good runner in junior Darian Green, who was predicted by some to be the starter. Green is a terrific change of pace back, who nearly broke the century mark on just 13 carries (92 yards). He also scored in the opener and averaged a massive 7.2 yards per carry.
Senior running back Teddy Williamson and sophomore quarterback Riley Neal also provide playmaking ability on the ground. Williams only carried the ball four times, but gained 28 yards and scored a touchdown, while Neal gained 48 yards on four carries including a 46-yard scamper.

3. Riley Neal Struggled Throwing The Ball

Neal was terrific for the Cardinals as a true freshman throwing for 2,276 yards with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing a respectable 58.3 percent of his passes. Big things are expected for the sophomore in 2016, but he did not get off to a great start as he completed just 51.7 percent of his passes for a paltry 130 yards to go along with two interceptions and zero touchdowns. Neal looked uncomfortable under pressure as the Cardinals’ offensive line struggled to produce a good pass block. When Neal did have time his favorite target is senior KeVonn Mabon who caught eight passes for 69 yards.

4. Cardinals’ Defense Is Aggressive and Opportunistic

In 2015 Ball State’s defense was historically bad. They allowed 35.8 points and 518 yards per game. Surprisingly, the BSU defense was a major part of their victory over Georgia State. The Cardinal defense limited the Panthers to just 4.2 yards per play and forced two turnovers that led to seven points. They also got into the opponent’s backfield for seven tackles for loss.
The defense is laden with upperclassmen with seniors Zack Ryan (linebacker) and Martez Hester (Safety) leading the way. Ryan was the team’s leading tackler with nine stops, including two for a loss. Hester solidifies the secondary and recorded six tackles last week.