For Ball State Cardinals fans like me, anytime you can get up on the day after gameday and enjoy the feeling of a win, it’s a good thing. Over the last few years those have been fewer and farther between than any of us would have liked. So Thursday night’s season opening win against Central Connecticut State was one to enjoy but also one to learn from. Here were my five takeaways...
- The Cardinals RB trio is going to be a force: There is a web series from the Sportslink program this season called RBU. Suffice to say after Thursday night that is an accurate name. James Gilbert, Malik Dunner and Caleb Huntley all had more than 70 yards on the ground and with a deep roster of talented backs things like short weeks or minor injuries are easy to overcome. Not since Quake
- Riley Neal may just be the real deal: Finishing 23-30 for 259 yards to go along with 2 TDs is impressive enough. Toss in zero sacks and a demonstrable control of the offense and the team and it is clear to me that this team is Riley’s for this season. As he goes so goes the Cardinals. It’s something BSU fans have been waiting for.
- It’s amazing what happens when a team is healthy: The Cardinals have been decimated with injuries making success last season nearly impossible and fans have just felt that this team was more than a little snakebit. Thursday showcased what’s possible when a team is healthy, energetic, and ready for war.
- There is defensive optimism: Name me the last time you looked at a Ball State team and thought, “Well, there’s a good defensive unit!”. It’s been a while. But this unit seems comfortable and familiar with the switch to the 3-4 and the secondary and linebackers seemed quick, controlled, and aggressive. The MAC season is where the defensive cream rises, but so far so good against an FCS offense that was certainly capable on paper of giving a mediocre unit fits.
- Mike Neu now calls the plays. And it shows: The offense seemed crisper and the sequencing was legitimately solid. Neu is a QB by nature and should be more astute than most about pacing and game flow. It is what he did for years, after all. As an alum of the program fans want Neu to succeed and to do so with flying colors. If he keeps on performing like Thursday then that’s almost a sure bet.
There’s obviously the standard warning about taking results from an FCS matchup and there’s validity in that line of thinking if you choose to go there. I will instead focus on the fact that Ball State is 1-0 and looked dominant in doing so. It hasn’t always been the case that an FCS squad coming into Scheumann Stadium was a pushover. It’s a good feeling. I like it. Let’s do that more.