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Neal pushing for more playing time as Ball State quarterback

Riley Neal replaced Jack Milas before halftime on Saturday. Is there something bigger going on at BSU?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cardinals down by 39 in the first half to Texas A&M, head coach Pete Lembo decided to bench his starting quarterback who had the same amount of completions as he did interceptions.

Maybe it was the noise of 105,000-plus at Kyle Field, or maybe it was something bigger.

Knowing he wouldn't get very many chances to shine, true freshman Riley Neal wasted no time making an impact on the game. Ball State had four scoring drives under Neal, who evaded pressure and used the width of the field to throw for 116 yards, and run for 57 more on just seven carries.

Maybe it was fluke? No matter what the case is, the race between Jack Milas and Riley Neal is just starting to heat up.

We know Lembo wont go to Neal immediately with what happened last season between Milas and the now-transferred Ozzie Mann. The Cards started at 1-4 a season ago, including a loss to the FCS's Indiana State Sycamores before Mann was ditched for Milas. Just like Neal versus the Aggies, Milas shined in his first game versus Western Michigan, but his numbers on the season were not considerable better than Mann's.

Milas was 1-for-8 last week, passing for just three yards and throwing a pick-six to the A&M defense in the second quarter before being sat. Neal started well for the Cards, and led both of BSU's touchdown drives.

The second-string quarterback began his stint by throwing seven completions on nine passes, and finished at 11-for-19 on the day. Add it all up, and Neal finished with 173 all purpose yards versus the no. 16 team in the country.

But take this all with a grain of salt. Most of the time, Neal was out there versus A&M's second stringers, while Milas struggled against a defense that could win the SEC.

The fact of the matter is that most Ball State fans have trust in the coaching staff. They know that one game does not erase everything they've seen throughout the summer. There is a reason why Milas was the starter on day one.

Hopefully, with the way the defense has been playing this season, Milas can show why he was picked to be the starter over the course of the next two weeks. Otherwise, it could too difficult to make another transition at quarterback with most of the backfield being so inexperienced.

But Darian Green has nearly answered the question at tailback by being the better back so far, that along with a highly experienced offensive line and a wide receiver group full of leaders makes for a climate where whoever is behind center can be comfortable.

Again, Neal's progress is a good sign, but despite what he did on Saturday, Milas will firmly remain the starter until we hear otherwise from Lembo himself.

Next week, Milas and the Cards will go up against a weak EMU defense, and if he is unable to get things going versus the Eagles, then it's time to worry. But for now, a bad game is nothing more than a bad game, and that's what Milas had on Saturday, just a one-time poor showing.