3 takeaways from Mike Neu's weekly press conference

Head Coach Mike Neu introduces the football staff to the audience at the spring game on April 23 at Scheumann Stadium. DN PHOTO KELLEN HAZELIP
Head Coach Mike Neu introduces the football staff to the audience at the spring game on April 23 at Scheumann Stadium. DN PHOTO KELLEN HAZELIP

Next Game:

Who: Eastern Kentucky (1-1) vs. Ball State (1-1)

Where: Scheumann Stadium (Muncie, Indiana)

When: Saturday, Sept. 17

Time: 3 p.m.

Watch: ESPN3

After coincidentally starting the last two games with a turnover on their third offensive play, Ball State head coach Mike Neu offered up a possible solution at his weekly press conference on Sept. 12.

“This week on the third play, maybe we just take a knee so we don’t turn it over,” he said.

But in all seriousness, the Cardinals had another slow start on Sept. 10 and fell behind 30-0 before leaving Memorial Stadium with a 30-20 loss to Indiana.

Ball State (1-1) will look to rebound from that loss in their home opener against Eastern Kentucky Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. The Colonels beat the University of Pikesville last weekend after suffering a 45-24 loss at Purdue in Week 1.

Here are three takeaways from Neu’s press conference:

In practice and moving forward, what can you do to talk about ball security and not making those mistakes?

Neu: “We work a ball security circuit every week, with all players. Not only the running backs, but the receivers and tight ends — anybody that could potentially have the ball in their hands. We work that every week, making sure the ball is carried high and tight. We hit them with bats or take them through a human gauntlet, if you will, where guys are trying to strip it. So we just have to emphasize that more than one day in practice. We’ll emphasize it every day in practice, and make sure it gets the attention that it needs ... We have to practice it, and yet be confident that it’s not going to show up again.”

Analysis: Ball State overcame two early interceptions in Week 1, but turnovers absolutely killed the Cardinals last week.

Ball State had a fumble on its opening possession, and running back James Gilbert coughed it up inside the Hoosiers’ 5-yard line when the Cardinals were down 10-0. Sophomore Riley Neal also threw his third of the season at the end of the first half.

Neu is concerned about the turnovers, but not overly concerned. He said he doesn’t want to make it into too big of an issue because turnovers haven’t plagued these particular players before.

With only a couple games left before the Mid-American Conference schedule begins, Ball State has to leave the slow starts behind.

After the huge rushing performance against Georgia State, what did you think of the offensive line against the Hoosiers?

Neu: “I thought they did a good job. You’re going against two different defensive fronts, from the first game against Georgia State to the Indiana game. These guys are a little bit bigger, obviously, so I thought our guys did a great job. We still had good rushing numbers, and I thought we were very good in protection. We had the one sack that was definitely not their fault — the pressure was misidentified by the quarterback. So those guys did a nice job. I’m very pleased overall through two games where our offensive line is at and the confidence level.”

Analysis: It’s no secret that Ball State’s offensive line was one of its biggest question marks heading into the season.

The Cardinals lost three starters from last year’s group, and have two guards — Pat Maloney and Alex Joss — who hadn’t played much before this year. Vinnie Palazeti had to slide over to center after Andrew Poenitsch got hurt in spring practice.

But through two games, this unit looks good. Ball State is averaging 232.5 rushing yards per game. There were a few times last week when Neal got flushed out of the pocket, but overall it was a solid performance.

You’ve got to think the passing game will get going eventually, but until it does, the Cardinals’ O-line needs to keeps creating holes for James Gilbert, Darian Green and Co.

What stands out on film about Eastern Kentucky?

Neu: “They’ve got a new coaching staff, and have some kids that have transferred into their program. They’re very skilled. They have some athletic ability, obviously. They’re a good program, if you look they’ve had some good years there. And even though they’re an FCS, these guys are a good opponent for us. It’s going to be a good challenge at home here, and depending how the quarterback situation plays out, we’ll be ready for whoever. But it’s as much about us cleaning up mistakes, going out with confidence and getting off to a good start as much as anything else.”

Analysis: Pretty cut and dry there.

With MAC play on the horizon, this is a big game for Ball State. It’s going to be tough for the Cardinals down to line to stay in the conversation for bowl eligibility if they lose this game.

It’s also a good game to work out the kinks they’ve experienced for the first two weeks.

It’s easy to tell that Neu is really fired up for the home opener on Sept. 17.


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