Ball State offense spreading the wealth through 3 games
Three games, eight players, 11 touchdowns.
Ball State football is averaging 30.7 points per game and 419 total yards per game on its way to a 2-1 record this season. Sophomore quarterback Riley Neal said the key to the team's success is spreading the ball around.
"You don't have to have one go-to guy," Neal said. "We have eight different guys who have scored, and that's at least eight guys — and there's more than that — that you can count on at any time to make a play."
Ball State — Offensive statistics
Scoring — 30.7
Rushing yards per game — 219.3
Passing yards per game — 199.7
Total yards per game — 419.0
Yards per play — 5.2
First downs — 68
Neal has thrown to nine different receivers in the passing game this season, led by senior KeVonn Mabon with 17 grabs for 204 yards. But Mabon, the team's best and most-experienced receiver, doesn't even have a touchdown yet.
With junior Corey Lacanaria out and Mabon injured in the second half of Ball State's 41-14 win over Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 17, two young receivers — redshirt sophomore Devin Reece and freshman Damon Hazelton Jr. — scored their first touchdowns and joined the Cardinals' growing list of players with one this year.
"I'm sure it hit [Hazelton] kind of fast, I mean the first two weeks he saw some action buy didn't really get any balls," Neal said. "Then the first drive he had three catches and the next drive a touchdown. So I'm sure it hit him like a ton of bricks, but that was pretty cool for those guys."
It's not just the passing game, either.
Sophomore James Gilbert has three rushing touchdowns. Senior Teddy Williamson has two, junior Darian Green has one and Neal ran one in against the Colonels.
Williamson is the Cardinals' veteran in the backfield. A senior and team captain, he has two scores this year after totaling just one in his first three years at Ball State.
"First off, it's a blessing that we're able to get into the end zone, and it shows that whoever is on the field is going to make that play when it comes," he said. "Nobody is selfish. Whether that's another guy, a younger guy, or an older guy, whoever is in the game is going to make that play that comes to him."
The Cardinals even have a touchdown on special teams this year, as freshman running back Malik Dunner picked up a blocked punt in a 30-20 loss at Indiana. Head coach Mike Neu is big on evaluating players in practice, and Dunner earned more playing time that way.
"'Hey, you just keep putting it out there in practice. We'll take notice, and you'll have an opportunity to make some plays,'" Neu said. "But that's a good problem to have, when you have that many guys that have touchdowns. That just shows you that it's an offense that will spread the ball around and get the ball in the hands of your playmakers."
The more games you play, the more film opponents have on you. Neal said the coaching staff works on different ways to run plays so the Cardinals don't get too predictable.
But with all the playmakers they have on offense, he said that shouldn't be too much of a struggle.
"If you're really successful like we want to be, you can't be concerned with who gets touchdowns," Neal said. "At Georgia State, [Gilbert] and those guys were killing it, and I couldn't have been happier. It didn't make me fell any worse that it was those guys scoring touchdowns. I think it's critical for our success."