Riley Neal carries Ball State's offense to comeback victory

The Ball State football team faced Virginia Military Institute on Sept. 3 at Scheumann Stadium.
The Ball State football team faced Virginia Military Institute on Sept. 3 at Scheumann Stadium.

Riley Neal statistics

Completions - 24

Attempts - 28

Passing yards - 194

Passing touchdowns - 1

Carries - 11

Rushing yards - 93

Rushing touchdowns - 1

Enter freshman quarterback Riley Neal. He completed 24-28 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown through the air over three quarters. He ran for another 86 yards and a second touchdown. 

After replacing starter Jack Milas, Neal helped Ball State secure a 28-17 victory. Neal knew he didn't have a lot of experience, but his teammates did. 

"We have a lot of veterans so they've seen these situations before and know they will again," Neal said. "We were able to pick up what we needed to keep going because it wasn't knew to them."

The Cardinals went 8-19 on third down conversions and 3-4 on fourth down conversions. All three fourth-down conversions resulted in touchdowns. 

"We have a lot of veteran lineman and tight ends so they know we need to perform under pressure," head coach Pete Lembo said. "Facing such an explosive offense like Eastern Michigan's that could drive it was very much risk versus reward and we needed to stay out there."

The fourth-down conversions not only kept the drives alive, they allowed Ball State to control the ball for the majority of the second half. One drive had two fourth down conversions would end up eating almost ten minutes from the clock and last 20 plays, resulting in a touchdown that put up Ball State 21-17. 

"They decided to play with the wind so they felt that if they could force us to punt it would put them in great field position," Lembo said. "Being able to stay on the field and moving down the field really was big for us to take control of the game."

Ball State controlled the ball for 37 minutes while Eastern Michigan only managed 22 minutes. It also kept Eastern Michigan unable to create long drives and shut them down to let Ball State go on a 28-0 run. 

"It was just good football on a day where we were having to fight the wind," Lembo said. "It says a lot of the resolve of our guys to pick up a win coming from such a big deficit."


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