Ball State football loses senior night against Bowling Green
The Ball State football season is officially over after a 48-10 loss to the Mid-American Conference East Division regular season champion Bowling Green.
This loss dropped the Cardinals to 3-9 on the season, the worst single season overall record in head coach Pete Lembo’s 15-year career.
“[It was] really reflective of our season — inconsistent on both sides of the ball, pretty darn good on special teams against a pretty athletic team," Lembo said.
Freshman quarterback Riley Neal had his first multi-interception game of his collegiate career, throwing three interceptions on the Nov. 24 season finale. Neal only had three interceptions on the year coming into this game.
His second interception came midway through the second quarter when he tried to find senior wide receiver Jordan Williams. The pass was tipped by a Falcon defender, which led to Bowling Green moving the ball inside the red zone.
Overall, the Falcons' offense turned the three turnovers into 13 points on the night.
Lembo, who recruited Neal alongside offensive coordinator Joey Lynch, continued to praise the freshman quarterback after the loss.
"I do think he will be a championship-level quarterback in this league," Lembo said.
Since Neal's breakout performance in Ball State’s 59-41 loss at Northern Illinois on Oct. 10, he has regressed.
During the first half of the season, where he only started for three full games, the freshman was 103-172 for 1,117 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.
Since the midway point of the season, the starting quarterback is 125-217 with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. During that span, Neal fumbled three times, only one of which was recovered to maintain the Cardinals' possession.
After his play against Bowling Green, Neal reflected on his performance.
“Yeah, I think I just I learned it's a lot more mental than it is physical," Neal said. "I mean, a lot of guys can make all the throws, but it's reading the coverages, knowing what's going on around you, being aware of everything. That's really a jump from high school football."
Lembo knew the challenges his defense was going to face against senior quarterback Matt Johnson. Prior to the game, he had 4,229 passing yards with 39 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The Bowling Green offense didn't just focus on the pass. During the course of the game, the team threw the ball for 37 plays while running the ball 35 times.
Johnson finished the game with 236 yards, two touchdowns and 24-31 through the air, marking his lowest single game passing yards this season.
This was due to the Falcons' running attack. As a unit, the team finished with 337 yards on five touchdown scores with a 9.1 yards per rush average.
Early in the third quarter, running back Fred Coppet busted through the front line for a 62-yard pickup, bringing the Falcons down to the 3-yard line, which later turned into a score.
“You've gotta get to the basics," junior linebacker Sean Wiggins said. "If you can't tackle, you can't play defense, you know?"