The opening stanza of the Mike Neu era did not start off as expected, but ended exactly the way Cardinals fans had hoped it would. Neu, a former Ball State quarterback and expected offensive guru had fans hoping that sophomore Riley Neal and the BSU offense would explode for a showcase premier. Their first drive went penalty, incompletion, interception return for TD. That’s.... not ideal.
To Ball State’s credit, though, the grind was on for the first half until the offense everyone expected decided to show up in the second half thanks largely to Ball State’s ground attack. The Cardinals toted it early and often and finished with 325 team rushing yards, led by James Gilbert with 160 yards and 2 TDs. It wasn’t the way BSU was supposed to win, but after losing to the same Georgia State squad last season, Ball State fans will take it. They will take it and they will love it all the way back to Muncie.
The biggest question mark for the Cardinals was their defense, and that question was answered as good as could be expected in the first game against a quality opponent. Allowing only 14 offensive points, 272 total yards, and forcing two turnovers should give BSU fans hope that the defense is further along than they thought. The offense? Eh.
When was it over?
Teddy Williamson’s 15-yard TD run in the 4th quarter gave the Cardinals a 10-point lead with under nine minutes to go. Given how the game went, at the time that didn’t appear to be an insurmountable lead, but it would prove to be enough as the final whistle blew.
It was a win against a team that Ball State lost to last season in a road environment with a new coach and staff and a sophomore quarterback. I could sit and complain about the lack of a blowout passing game, the 5 penalties, or the 2 turnovers, but that would make me a hyper-critical douchebag. And we wouldn’t want that.