The Ball State Cardinals looked to be heading in the right direction in 2016. Then in 2017, they were brutalized by injury. The 2018 team is young, but they have shown that there is talent on the roster. They have also played fairly well, but only have a 1-3 record. After their latest loss to Western Kentucky, by a score of 28-20, here is what we learned.
Young teams need to learn to win
After all the injuries in 2017, many youngsters on the Cardinals roster saw playing time. That certainly helps on the experience front. Sadly, a lot of those experiences were losses. This season started out with a win, followed by three losses. Two of those losses were winnable games. This team needs to learn to play with a sense of urgency all 4 quarters, and to put teams away when the opportunities arise, because they might be few and far between this season.
Ball State has a brutal schedule, in a non-traditional sense
With the exception of the Notre Dame game, there are no powerhouses on the Ball State schedule, however there was only one guaranteed win. For a team that needs to learn how to win, this schedule is brutal. If Ball State played like they did against Notre Dame, they could beat just about anyone on it. If they play like they did against Indiana, they can lose to anyone left. Against Western Kentucky, the Cardinals played decent football and lost a heart-breaker. The next three games are critical for the Cardinals. If they haven’t learned to win by the EMU game, they might not learn the rest of the season. Up next is a Kent squad that has shown improvement on defense and has a dynamic quarterback. Northern Illinois is a match-up of strength against strength, with the Cardinals offense going against the Northern Illinois defense. Up last in the crucial three game stretch is the most winnable game, CMU.
The middle of the Cardinals defense is soft
This isn’t a question of character, as the players themselves are tough nosed. It’s a question of scheme, as the Hilltoppers were able to make multiple big plays over the middle, especially on third and long. This needs fixed, and fixed soon.
Riley Miller is becoming a big play threat, at least by Ball State standards
One of the biggest struggles for the Cardinals offense recently has been finding big plays, especially on the outside. Miller is starting to look like that threat.
The future could be bright in Muncie
The Cardinals are one of the youngest teams in college football, and many of the players on both sides of the ball have shown some game breaking ability. As long as Ball State continues what they are doing, this team should be bowling next season.