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Ball State Cardinals vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles football recap: Neal impressive in 28-17 win over Eagles

Riley Neal threw only four incompletions against the Eagles, scoring 28 unanswered points.

Andrew Mascharka (The Eastern Echo)

The Eastern Michigan Eagles got off to an exciting start in the first half taking an early 17-0 lead. At which point, the Ball State Cardinals flipped the switch and put up 28 unanswered points, opening up MAC play with a win. The Eagles had a pair of opportunities to score in the latter end of the fourth quarter, but Brogan Roback threw a pair of costly interceptions to seal things for Ball State.

After Jack Milas went 0-for-5 in the first couple of drives for the Cardinals to start the game, freshman Riley Neal's number was called to turn things around for their offense early rather than later. Needless to say, that was the right move. After throwing for a little over 100 yards against Texas A&M, Neal put on a spectacular performance.

In the pocket, out of the pocket, even a crazy 41-yard touchdown run, Neal was nothing short of impressive in his first near-full game as the Cardinals quarterback. The 6-foot-5 true freshman went 24-for-28 through the air for 194 yards with one touchdown pass: a 26-yard strike to Jordan Williams late in the first half.

A big credit to Neal and the Cardinal offense heating and putting up 28 unanswered points was good play from the skilled players around him. KeVonn Mabon caught 10 passes for 82 yards while Jordan Williams caught four for 32 yards. Always playing out of the shotgun formation even at the goal line, Darian Green and James Gilbert racked up over 200 rushing yards together. Green, on 25 carries, had 166 rushing yards with a 42-yard run on the Cardinals' first offensive play. Gilbert, only 39 yards on 15 handles, but put up a pair of close rushing scores at the goal line.

"I don't know if I've ever been in a game with the time of possession so lopsided," Eagles head coach Chris Creighton said after the game. The Eagles held the ball for 22:39 while Ball State had it for 37:21. That doesn't sound like the most lopsided statistic, but it certainly can feel that way after the Cardinals put up a 20-play drive that lasted nearly 10 minutes with two fourth down conversions. The two were fairly split even in TOP at the half where EMU had a 3-point lead.

The Eagles got off to a 17-0 start scoring on three straight drives. Dylan Mulder hit a 36-yard field goal against the wind in the first quarter and Darius Jackson is responsible for scoring both of the Eagles' touchdowns: a 19-yard run and then a 63-yarder just two carries later. It looked like his name would be called a lot more having 90 rushing yards on five carries at the half, but would only carry the rock two more times after that.

Creighton also said that he didn't think that Brogan Roback set himself to throw enough. There were plenty of times were the pocket wasn't comfortable enough and was, at times, forced to scurry. He ended the day 19-for-32 for 196 yards with a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter after going 10-for-18 in the first half.