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Ball State's defense is essentially wasting Neal's freshman season

Riley Neal is the real deal, but there's one thing left in the way of his development: Ball State's defense.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

It seems as if it is the same story every week. Pete Lembo's Ball State Cardinals have a major concern. BSU's defense is falling apart game by game.

While the offense has returned to the level of production seen under Keith Wenning and company, the defense has steadily been moving backwards.

This year it has gone from bad to worse. Although the scoreboard doesn't always show it, yards given up is becoming a huge problem for the Cardinals. Three times the Cards have allowed under 25 points, but in two such instances, versus Toledo and Northwestern, the Ball State defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense.

That bend-don't-break attitude officially fell apart last Saturday in DeKalb. Despite holding strong over the first few drives, the Ball State defense came apart as the game went on. Huskies' quarterback Drew Hare couldn't miss, and Ball State looked to have no willingness to stop him.

So, what's wrong in Muncie? Is it the coaching? The play calling? The talent? The recruiting? Or has the coaching staff looked away as the defense has become progressively worse?

Is Pete Lembo making the same mistakes as Kevin Wilson at Indiana or Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Washington State?

Left uncorrected, Ball State's inability to stop opposing offenses means the Cardinals could fail to capitalize on Neal, who looks to be a top tier MAC talent. Ball State finds itself in a difficult position. Neal is passing more and more each game. Since his first start against Eastern Michigan on September 19th, his passes thrown in each game continues to increase. 28 against the Eagles, 35 against Northwestern, 37 against Toledo, and 53 last week against the Huskies. Increased pass totals, means getting the defense back on the field quicker, a defense that to this point has stopped few.

This is a Ball State team that ranks in the top three in the conference in total offense, but second from the bottom in total defense. The Cardinals face another stiff test this week, as they welcome Georgia State to Scheumann Stadium. The Panthers are the top passing offense in the Sun Belt Conference, averaging 309 yards through the air.

Simply put, the Ball State offense plays well enough to keep the Cardinals in games. The defense does not. Without an increased effort defensively, or a more balanced offensive attack, the Cardinals could find themselves outside of the bowl picture for the second consecutive year.