Ball State struggles offensively for third-straight week against Central Michigan
For the third week in a row, the Ball State offense failed to find the end zone.
It took nearly ten minutes of gameplay for either team to even take a snap in Central Michigan territory, as two three-and-outs meant that Ball State was behind the eight ball early in Saturday’s 56-9 loss.
“This is a fragile football team right now,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “As much as I hate to admit it, we are struggling to overcome some of the injuries. It’s not for lack of want to, guys are working hard, but we’re doing some things that are uncharacteristic for our football team.”
Ball State has not scored a touchdown since Sept. 23 in the fourth quarter against Western Kentucky. Since then, the cold streak has lasted over 180 minutes.
Injuries have plagued the Cardinals on both sides of the ball, losing both junior starting quarterback Riley Neal and junior running back James Gilbert since the game against Western Kentucky.
That’s meant that fifth year senior Jack Milas has been called upon to run the Ball State offense, and freshman running back Caleb Huntley has had most of the carries for the running game.
However, injuries to the offensive line have also hampered the Cardinals success, as Milas was sacked seven times today by the Chippewas defense, and backup quarterback redshirt sophomore Zack Blair, who took all of Ball State’s snaps in the fourth quarter due to an elbow injury to Milas, was also sacked once.
“It doesn’t matter what position you’re at it’s tough when guys lack experience,” fifth year senior offensive lineman Vinnie Palazeti said. “It’s a hard road to go down, but that’s the path we’ve been given so the guys are going to be out there and compete the best that they can.”
In his postgame press conference, Neu said even if Milas’ injury is better by Thursday’s game with Toledo, he is unsure of who will start behind center for Ball State.
“I need to watch the tape first and kind of see where we’re at,” Neu said. “We’re playing a good football team in Toledo and obviously I know what they’re all about on their defensive line. We need to be able to move the pocket some and so we’ll look at some different things. So without seeing the tape yet, evaluating where [Milas is] at, it would be too premature for me to make a decision to put Zack [Blair] in. But obviously we’ll get a look first thing in the morning and see where we go.”
Milas struggled on passes of ten yards or more, which meant that the Ball State game plan called for the senior quarterback to throw several screens and short passes. He ended up finishing the game 18-for-30 for 118 yards with no interceptions.
The sacks had an extremely negative effect on the Ball State’s final rushing statistics. The Central Michigan defense bottled up the Ball State rushing attack, only allowing 81 yards on 41 carries.
Huntley led the Cardinals with 79 yards rushing on 19 carries. Overall, Ball State put up just 208 yards on 75 plays, its lowest yardage total this season.
The Cardinals now move on to hosting MAC West leader Toledo, who is giving up just over 15 points per game in conference play on a short week. Ball State hosts Toledo on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Junior place kicker Morgan Hagee was once again responsible for all of Ball State’s points, nailing three field goals to keep the Cardinals from being shutout.
The game against Toledo will be aired on ESPN3 and marks the first weeknight game on the Ball State schedule. The loss to Central Michigan was Ball State’s last Saturday kickoff in the 2017 season.
Contact Sam Barloga with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.