Ball State football fans got their first chance to see this season’s Cardinals team in-action during the annual spring game on Saturday afternoon.
The set-up had the offense, dressed in cardinal red, face off against the defense, who were in black.
Ball State junior starting running back James Gilbert started the game with a bang, weaving through the defense on a 65-yard touchdown run, which was the longest play from scrimmage by the offense.
Gilbert split time in the backfield with sophomore Malik Dunner and freshman David Keeling, who finished with 28 and 9 yards on the day, while Gilbert rushed for 77 on 8 carries.
“What a great day,” head coach Mike Neu said. “I appreciate the fans coming out today especially considering it was sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Most importantly, we had a day where our guys came out and competed. For the most part we got through clean and without any injuries, which is always a big plus for me.”
Neu got to see action from two of his quarterbacks as well, with senior Jack Milas taking the lion’s share of the snaps. In the third quarter he made his only major mistake while looking for a completion on an out-route to the near side. Milas’ pass was intercepted by redshirt sophomore safety Romero Wade who took his pass 55 yards the other way for the defense’s only score.
“I literally just called that I was going to do that [intercept the ball and return it for a touchdown] 30 seconds before it happened,” Wade said. “I had been caught in the middle of the field in the red zone, so I knew everyone was waiting on me to make another play. So I said, ‘I finna get a pick and when I get it I’m gonna take it to the crib.’ 30 seconds later it happened.”
Milas ended the game 7-for-15 with 94 yards and 1 interception. Redshirt sophomore Zach Blair finished 4-for-7 for 65 yards. Last year’s starter, Riley Neal, did not play due to injury.
Junior kicker Morgan Hagee connected on two field goals that would have broken his career long if replicated in-game. In the first quarter, Hagee nailed a 52-yarder with the wind at his back, and in third he made from 46 yards out, on a line drive that barely cleared the crossbar.
Sophomore kicker Ryan Rimmler also connected on a knuckleball kick from 27 yards that just cleared the defensive line.
Six different Cardinals recorded sacks, and Gilbert took notice of the Ball State’s new look defense under coordinator David Elson.
“The defense looked a lot better from last year to this year,” Gilbert said. “They got a new defensive coordinator so they got a new defensive scheme so we had trouble with them in a couple practices. They looked real good; I’m proud of them.”
There was no score kept.
Ball State’s first game of the regular season comes on September 2 at Illinois. The team will open up its home slate against UAB a week later.