Senior wide reciever Kevonn Mabon walks along the side line with his fellow teammates on their way to the coin toss at the game against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 17 at Scheumann Stadium. Kyle Crawford // DN
Ball State shifts focus to Florida Atlantic after Week 3 win
Ball State played its best complete game of the season Sept. 17: a 41-14 dominant home win over Eastern Kentucky.
But fast forward 24 hours later, that win was history. The next day, it was time to focus on Florida Atlantic.
Ball State (2-1) will travel to Boca Raton, Florida, to take on Florida Atlantic (1-2) at FAU Stadium Sept. 24. This will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Ball State at Florida Atlantic
Where: FAU Stadium (Boca Raton, Fla.)
When: Saturday, Sept. 24
Time: 6 p.m.
Head coach Mike Neu knows the Cardinals will need to play their best to beat a Florida Atlantic squad that is returning home after a 63-7 road beating at Kansas State last weekend.
"This is a good football team," Neu said. "They lost two games against very good teams in Miami [Florida] and Kansas State. We're going to get their best effort. They're disappointed, I know, in what happened to them a week ago, and we're expecting a very physical game and a fast-paced game."
Just like what Ball State felt after a 30-20 loss to Indiana in Week 2, the Cardinals know the Owls are motivated to return home to try and avenge last week's loss.
James Gilbert, Ball State's leading rusher through three games, said it will be tough to beat Florida Atlantic on its home field. The Cardinals' running back by committee will look to exploit the Owls' defense that is giving up 252.7 yards per game this season and was gashed for 336 rushing yards last week.
"Since they got beat by Kansas State, I look at it as like they're just going to come out with a bang and try to beat us and just turn their season around because it's their last non-conference game, just like us," Gilbert said. " So look for a bang out of them."
KeVonn Mabon, who Neu said is ready to go after leaving the second half of last week's game with an injury, repeated Gilbert's sentiments about the Owls.
"This is big because it's an unknown opponent for us," Mabon said. "We've played IU in the past, so we knew what we were kind of getting into with that. We played Georgia State last year, so we knew what we were getting. EKU was a new opponent, but they were FCS. This is going to be an FBS team that we've never played before, and we're going to go out and show that we can beat people that we don't have much information on."
Florida Atlantic has a lot of talent, Neu said, and playmakers on both sides of the ball.
The Owls like to push the tempo offensively behind quarterback Jason Driskel, who has thrown for 574 yards and two touchdowns this season, and running back Greg Howell Jr., who has 237 rushing yards and four touchdowns. When the Cardinals are on offense, Neu said the key will be slowing down their pass rush that has accounted for 4.5 sacks.
Win or lose, 24 hours after the game, Ball State will set its mind on the next game.
"It's just being humble and staying hungry," Neu said. "When you look at the film, we won 41-14. But you have to look at the film and be real with yourself. ... There's still a lot of things we can fix."
Ball State and Florida Atlantic will kick off at 6 p.m. Sept. 24.