Wide reciever KeVonn Mabon runs the ball during the Cardinals’ game against Northern Illinois on Oct. 1 in Scheumann Stadium. Ball State lost 31 to 24. Paige Grider// DN
Seniors relish chance to play at Scheumann Stadium 1 last time
They remember the look on the seniors’ faces, the raw emotions that followed last season’s Senior Day loss to Bowling Green. It wasn’t just the fact they lost, it was how they lost — a 48-10 defeat in their last game at Scheumann Stadium.
“Not only did we lose,” now-senior KeVonn Mabon said. “But we got blown out. Knowing their last game here they took a big L, and it was mainly because of us. We went back and watched the film the next day, and it was sickening.”
It’s safe to say that loss hasn’t sat well with this year’s group.
Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan
Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Nov. 8
Place: Scheumann Stadium
Watch: CBS Sports Network
“It’s huge for me to go out with a bang,” senior safety Martez Hester said. “I don’t want to go through with anything like that.”
Ball State (4-5, 1-4 MAC) will have a chance to send its 23 seniors out the right way this time around, when it welcomes Eastern Michigan (5-4, 2-3 MAC) to Scheumann Stadium Nov. 8.
It’s been a unique challenge for this year’s senior class. After former coach Pete Lembo brought them into the program, they were introduced to a whole new staff this year.
Whether or not the seniors have meshed with the new staff is for them to decide, first-year head coach Mike Neu said, but he’s been real with them since his first day on the job.
“I’ve asked them to embrace the coaching change when it happened in January,” Neu said. “Said, 'Hey listen, I’m one of you. I’m an alum here.’ So even though I wasn’t responsible for bringing you into the program, I feel responsible that you go out the right way.”
For that to happen, Ball State will have to take care of a somewhat surprising Eastern Michigan squad.
The Eagles fell 28-17 to the Cardinals at home last season on their way to a disastrous 1-11 campaign. But with five wins this year, the Eagles are one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1995.
"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," Neu said. "They've really done a good job, too, of not beating themselves in a lot of ways."
That starts with redshirt junior quarterback Brogan Roback. After missing the first part of the season due to a suspension, Roback has been effective since he returned, throwing for 1,387 yards, 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“They’re a really balanced team, and they’re sound in a lot of areas of the game,” Hester said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes. We’re definitely going to have to be sound in all of our coverages if we’re going to put ourselves in a good chance to win.”
The Eagles allow 424.6 total yards per game (eighth in the MAC), but Ball State gained 497 yards on Western Michigan’s stout defense last week and are prepared to welcome starting quarterback Riley Neal into the lineup this week.
A win in this game would be Ball State’s 11th in the last 12 meetings against Eastern Michigan, and would put the Cardinals one win closer to bowl eligibility, something they haven’t achieved since the 2013 season.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was a MAC championship and to go to a bowl game,” Mabon said. “We can’t go to the MAC championship, but we know we can still win two of these last three and get a bowl berth … and hopefully go wherever we go and win that one, too.”
Neu’s senior night was in 1993, but he still remembers — not because of the festivities, but because his team won. He’s hoping for a similar outcome for this year’s group.
“We got a lot at stake here, for our senior class and our program,” Neu said. “Guys need to make sure they seize the moment here, and take advantage of this opportunity to take this field one last time.”