Ball State head coach Mike Neu looks on as the Cardinals play in their annual Spring Football Game. Neu is in his first season as Ball State's head coach. DN File // Kellen Hazelip
3 takeaways from Mike Neu's weekly press conference
They lost to a good football team.
No, Ball State simply wasn't good enough to beat No. 17 Western Michigan in a 52-20 home loss on Nov. 1. For as bad as the score looked, however, the Cardinals did some nice things. They moved the ball to the tune of 497 total yards, and got to Broncos' quarterback Zach Terell a few times with the blitz.
Ball State will look to build on the positives with another midweek matchup, this time against Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Scheumann Stadium. The Eagles are much-improved from last year with a 5-4 (2-3 MAC) record this season.
Here are three takeaways from head coach Mike Neu's weekly press conference Nov. 3 (questions shortened for brevity):
You talked about how Western Michigan doesn't make mistakes. How much have you progress have you made in that regard this year?
Neu: "It starts with the turnovers. We've gotta eliminate the turnovers — we're 11th in the conference right now out of 12 teams in turnover margin. That just simply can't happen. It doesn't matter who you are, how good you are, how talented you are, if you don't fix that, then you're gonna find yourself in this position. Now I would say, our guys on the field have executed and done a lot of good things, but when you have three turnovers and you don't force them into any, it's tough to win like that."
Analysis: Ball State has gotten away with it a few times this year, but three first half turnovers against the No. 17 team won't cut it. Quarterback Jack Milas threw two picks filling in for Riley Neal, and freshman Damon Hazelton Jr. fumbled away a scoring chance at the end of the half.
Neu talked about turnovers and working to protecting the ball more than anything else during the press conference. It seems like they're harping on it in practice, but players are just pressing in critical moments of the game.
And if it keeps up, Neu said, you've got to start looking at changes in the lineup.
What have you seen from Eastern Michigan this year?
Neu: "I've been impressed with their execution, because we've had a lot of crossover tape, and I've had a chance to see them offensively and defensively. They've really done a good job, too, of not beating themselves in a lot of ways. The games they've been in, they've been right there. They've executed, they've moved the ball, they've stopped teams. When they play explosive offenses, they bend, but they don't break."
Analysis: Eastern Michigan has come a long way from the cellar of the MAC and the FBS a year ago. The Eagles are playing good football, and played Western Michigan well before losing to Miami (Ohio) last week.
Neu mentioned the turnover margin (noticing a trend yet?). Quarterback Brogan Roback has thrown for 1,387 yards, 10 touchdowns and only three picks this year in six games.
This game isn't going to be as easy as last year's 28-17 win over the Eagles. Ball State probably has to win this game if it wants to be bowl eligible at the end of the year.
Is the MAC better than what you thought it would be, and how is it compared to when you played?
Neu: "I think it's better than what I anticipated. I think the league as a whole is better than I initially anticipated. Even when I was a player, I always though the Mid-American Conference was overlooked. Because there's good football, and it shouldn't be a surprise at the beginning of every season when a MAC team beats a Power 5 team. I know it still gets talked about, and yes it's considered an upset, but really I don't consider it an upset because there are good football teams in this conference. ... It's one of those leagues where any given week, it can change. And anybody can beat anybody."
Analysis: The MAC has been really good and really exciting so far this year. There are a total of five teams with winning records, and four of them are in the West Division with Ball State.
Last week, there were four conference games. And the favored team lost in each one of those games.
Ball State has the second-to-worst record in the conference at this point in time. The Cardinals will look to prove Neu's comment about anybody beating anybody else on a given week correct over the next few weeks, as their final three opponents are a combined 9-6 in league play.