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Ball State Searches For Improvement As 2015 Sees Its Final Weeks Arrive

With two games left to play in 2015, Pete Lembo's Cardinals will be looking to do one thing: Improve.

Riley Neal is just in the midst of his freshman season as a Cardinal.
Riley Neal is just in the midst of his freshman season as a Cardinal.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

3-7 (2-4) isn't really acceptable no matter who you are. For Ball State, it's less than expected. But with two games to play, this season isn't totally lost in the dark.

The remainder of the season should yes, be about getting to five wins, but not just that. It's about improving. It's about developing young talent. Talent that has shown its potential.

There are things to look forward to in Muncie, Indiana. The Cardinals have found their next good quarterback. The Cardinals have young talent on defense and have two young stars at tailback. Not to mention a sure-handed slot guy who's only a sophomore himself.

Not all is bad at Ball State. Freshman Riley Neal through nine games: nearly 60 percent on his passes, 1,875 yards, 13 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. Neal will have tests in each of the last two contests this year, but it's time to see what he can do against more quality defense.

The backfield is young, too. How about true-freshman tailback James Gilbert? Over four yards per carry, over five-hundred yards rushing, and eight scores? I'm more than happy with those numbers, and he's not even the starter. That role belongs to sophomore Darian Green, who's got over 1,201 all-purpose yards on the season and five total touchdowns himself.

Corey Lacanaria is the youngest Ball State wideout that sees consistent playing time. The speedy sophomore finds the field in the slot and also returns punts for the Cardinals. Lacanaria has racked up over five-hundred yards from scrimmage in 2015, and still has two games to add on to that total. He's improving, and is proving to be a nice second or third read for Riley Neal in passing situations.

Defensively, there's room to build on a young base of talent. Experienced defensive backs Martez Hester, Darius Conaway, David Moore, Dedrick Cromartie, and Lamont McPhatter all return in 2016. Sean Wiggins, Zack Ryan, Damon Singleton, and Kevin Willis are all back to line BSU's front-seven. Losing your leading tackler and leader (Ben Ingle) is rough, but the speed of the young players in the secondary and the abilities of the returning members of the front-seven give fellow Ball State fans hope.

Oh, and we can't forget that place kicker Morgan Hagee is in his first year, too. Hagee is 14-18 on the year with his misses all coming on attempts of 35 yards or longer.

The Cardinals have a bye week before traveling to Ohio for a road test on Tuesday, November 17th. Bowling Green visits Muncie on the following Tuesday to close the regular season. Although Ball State is likely to be the underdog in both match-ups, the promise and development of young talent gives fans reason to watch and note how each and every position can improve no matter the result of the games that remain.

I'm not saying to forget this season already. We shouldn't, there are two games remaining and this team can get to five wins. I'm saying that it's about improvement. It's about using the last two contests of 2015 to find ways to boost the capabilities of each and every one of the young players on the roster.

Coordinators are given opportunities to let players shine, and with a bowl game already out of the question, those chances have already grown. Take a shot here or there. Give young talent the chance to make improvements through experience.

Again, 3-7 (2-4) isn't good, but let's note that things aren't necessarily spiraling downwards in Muncie. There is young talent, and I'm excited about the near future of Ball State football.