Ball State and Western Michigan meet on Saturday afternoon for the first time since their epic showdown to close the 2020 regular season. With the Western division title on the line, the Cardinals overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to eke out a 30-27 victory and earn their first trip to Ford Field since 2008.
The final play of the game will live in MAC lore forever, with Western Michigan seemingly score the game winning TD as time expired, only to see it called back after one of their numerous laterals on the play was deemed a forward pass. Surely, that ending won’t be far from either team’s mind as they meet again this year in Kalamazoo.
- Time and Date: 3:30 PM, Saturday, October 9, 2021
- Network: CBS Sports Network (A valid cable subscription is required)
- Radio: WMU listeners can tune in to 106.5 JACK-FM, while Ball State viewers can tune in to 104.1 WLBC-FM.
- Location: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI
- Weather: 67 degrees and partly cloudy skies, per Weather.com. It’ll be humid, with a 24 percent chance of precipitation and a northeasterly wind of 5 MPH.
- Spread/Total: Western Michigan -12.5, O/U 57.5
- Last Meeting: Ball State 30, Western Michigan 27 (December 12, 2020)
- All-time series: Western Michigan leads, 26-21
Offensive Points Per Game:
· Ball State: 19.2 (9th in the MAC)
· Western Michigan: 26.6 (6th in the MAC)
Defensive Points Per Game:
· Ball State: 29.6 (9th)
· Western Michigan: 21.6 (3rd)
Yards Per Game:
· Ball State: 308.0 (11th)
· Western Michigan: 409.0 (3rd)
Yards Allowed Per Game:
· Ball State: 406.2 (8th)
· Western Michigan: 303.4 (2nd)
Ball State Players to Watch
WR Justin Hall: Hall is the active FBS leader in career receptions with 288, and is the most dynamic player on the Cardinals offense. He has 31 catches for 367 yards this season, and is coming off of a seven catch, 78 yard performance against Army. Not captured in that stat line is his game opening, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD to set the tone in the Cardinals 28-16 victory over the Black Knights.
LB Jaylin Thomas: Thomas’ 289 career tackles entering the 2021 season were the most of any active MAC player. The 2020 third team all-MAC selection, Thomas has continued his impressive form in 2021 and currently leads the Cardinals defense with 41 tackles through the first five games. Thomas is coming off of arguably his best performance of the season, with 11 total tackles against Army. He recorded his first interception of the season two weeks ago in the Cardinals loss to Toledo.
Western Michigan Players to Watch
QB Kaleb Eleby: Eleby currently leads the MAC in both passing yards (1,181) and TD’s (nine) while also throwing zero interceptions. Eleby has established himself as one of the most efficient signal callers in the league, completing 63.4% of his passes for his career to go with a stellar 31 to five TD to interception ratio. His efficiency has been a big reason for the Bronco’s offensive success thus far this season.
WR Skyy Moore: Moore burst on the scene as a true freshman in 2019, earning first team all-MAC honors with 51 receptions, 802 yards, and three scores. This year, Moore has regained his 2019 form, and currently leads the MAC in receptions (33) and is second in receiving yards (413). His ability to separate from opposing defenses and get open at multiple levels makes him a dangerous weapon anywhere on the field.
Where They Stand
Western Michigan enters this game as the hottest team in the MAC. After a season opening loss to Michigan, the Broncos have ripped off four straight victories on the strength of an efficient offense and improved defense. The defense has really found its form the last two weeks, holding San Jose State to 119 yards of total offense two weeks ago, and stymieing the Buffalo offense last week. The Bulls entered the game averaging over 400 yards per game, but were only able to manage 282 against Western. This front seven has been playing at a very high level, and the Broncos currently lead the MAC in sacks with 16.
Ball State was a massive disappointment to start the season, losing three of their first four games. The loss to Penn State in week two was expected, but the following defeats to Wyoming (45-12) and Toledo (22-12) were especially disheartening. Last week, Mike Neu’s squad seemed to find their footing, racing out to a 21-0 lead en route to a 28-16 victory against Army.
This game is of utmost importance to the Cardinals, having already lost to Toledo. A loss here will all but eliminate them from the division race and erase any hopes of defending their conference championship. Expect to see a motivated Cardinals squad take the field in Kalamazoo on Saturday afternoon.