Neu, Bonamego reunite for Ball State at Central Michigan game
When Mike Neu and John Bonamego shake hands before the game on Saturday, it won't be the first meeting between the two. It'll be more like a reunion.
Neu was the head coach of the Arena Football League's New Orleans VooDoo in 2006-07 when Bonamego was the special teams coordinator for the NFL's New Orleans Saints, and the two know each other well. It's one of the many storylines surrounding Ball State's game against Central Michigan at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
"When we got together for head coach meetings out in Arizona, it was the first time we saw each other since I was hired here at Ball State," Neu said. "We spent a lot of time talking during those 2-3 days we were together, just reliving some old memories. But [I have] a great relationship with him."
Ball State at Central Michigan
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Date: Oct. 8
Place: Kelly/Shorts Stadium (Mount Pleasant, Mich.)
Watch: American Sports Network/ESPN3
Neu and Bonamego also have another thing in common. Bonamego played college ball at Central Michigan and is now coaching for his alma mater, just like Neu at Ball State.
Since Bonamego took over in 2015, the Chippewas are 10-8 with an appearance in the Quick Lane Bowl last season.
Neu said Bonamego's tough coaching style comes from his background in special teams.
"When you coach special teams, you're always looking for those tough, hard-nosed guys that can run down the field and set the tone for the game," Neu said. "That's carried over to the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Very well-coached, very good discipline. ... Last week's game was very uncharacteristic for them."
Central Michigan started Mid-American Conference play last week the same way as Ball State — with a home loss.
The Chippewas were handed a 49-10 loss by No. 25 Western Michigan, their second loss in a row after starting the season 3-0. Western Michigan got to the quarterback eight times in the win, raising Central Michigan's total sacks allowed to 18 this season.
Ball State defensive end Josh Posley said getting in the backfield will be key in taking pressure off the secondary.
"We make stopping the run our top priority," he said. "Because once we stop the run, they have to pass, and we can pin our ears back and go rush the quarterback."
The Cardinals will likely have to get some pressure if they want to slow down quarterback Cooper Rush, who is the FBS active leader in career passing yards.
The fifth-year senior is completing 61.9 percent of his passes this season with a MAC-leading 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns. Ball State is 2-1 against Central Michigan in Rush's career, but are not taking his experience lightly heading into this weekend.
"Throughout the season, he's probably the best [quarterback] that we'll play," senior safety Corey Hall said.
The Cardinals lead the all-time series 24-23-1, and have won six of the last seven dating back to 2010.
Central Michigan's lone victory during that time was a 23-21 win at Scheumann Stadium last year in Bonamego's first season.
If Bonamego wants another win against Ball State, this time he'll have to do it against an old friend.
"He knows I'm pulling for him every game except for one," Neu said. "We're gonna shake hands before the game, give a big hug, we're gonna get after each other, then a handshake when it's all said and done."
Ball State and Central Michigan kick off at 3:30 p.m.