Previewing Ball State: Seniority carries the Cardinals

This Year: 1-1 Overall, 0-0 MAC

Last Week: Loss to Texas A&M, 56-23

Last Year: 5-7 Overall, 4-4 MAC


Head coach Pete Lembo is in his 5th Season at the helm of Ball State. Lembo has a career record of 31-21 with BSU. Lembo is undefeated against Eastern Michigan, holding a 4-0 record against the Eagles.

Game Week Information

Eastern Michigan hosts Ball State on Saturday Sept. 19 and kickoff is slated to be at 3 p.m. The “Turn It Up, Turn it Green” pep rally will begin at 12:30 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.

EMU Student Body Day will be help on Sept. 18 at Rynearson Stadium. Students will have the chance to meet the coaches and players of the football team as well as get a tour of the facilities. Other giveaways will also be involved.

Returning Starters

The Cardinals will return a total of 17 players this season. The offense is slated to return nine, and defense is slated to return eight.

Key Returning Players

Key returners for the Cardinals are wide receivers Jordan Williams and Chris Shillings, the entire offensive line, defensive lineman Michael Ayers and linebacker Zack Ryan.

Last year, Ball State defeated EMU last year in Muncie, Ind., by a score of 45-30. A big first half for Ball State gave the Cardinals a comfortable 28-3 lead going into halftime. The halftime lead was too much to handle for EMU as an attempted second half comeback fell short.

Experience is key for Ball State coming into Saturday's game. The Cardinals graduated only one player on the offensive side of the ball last season. Former running-back Jahwan Edwards, who ran for 1,252 yards last season, was the graduating offensive player. But Ball State has found many replacements at running back. 

The offensive line is one of the premier offensive lines in the Mid-American Conference this season. Returning all five starters from a year ago, three seniors and two juniors make this line incredibly impressive. 

Ball State has many threats at wide receiver; senior Jordan Williams will be one to watch for this week for the Cardinals.

Ball State sophomore quarter-back Jack Milas took over the position halfway through last season after Ozzie Mann was benched after a 1-4 start to the Cardinals season. Milas started at QB against Virginia Military Institute in week one and would go 34/52 with 338 yards through the air. 

Coming into this season freshman QB Riley Neal made a name for himself in fall camp. Neal didn’t play in week one but did start against Texas A&M University in week two. Neal went 11/19 for 116 yards including a 45-yard toss that set the Cardinals up for seven points. Lembo will make a decision later in the week on who will start against Eastern Michigan.

Ball State typically runs a trio of running-backs that all get an equal amount of carries. Darian Green is one of the premier backs on the roster, and pulled off huge runs to start the game against Texas A&M last week. Green will also be used as a player the Cardinals can rely on to dump passes off to and end up picking up yards after reception. James Gilbert and Teddy Williamson have also been used in similar roles in both games early in the season.

Like the Cardinal offense, Ball State saw many players return on defense from a year ago but they have struggled mightily in their first couple of weeks giving up big yardage to both VMI and Texas A&M. VMI racked up 444 yards through the air, and didn’t throw a single interception. 

Texas A&M had over 200 yards through the air and on the ground against BSU. Ball State has given up over 500 yards in each game to opposing offenses, and have had trouble slowing down their opposition. A majority of BSU experience comes up front with the defensive line and linebackers.

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