Ball State's loss to Toledo Nov. 16 went beyond the 37-19 final score, as it effectively ended any chance it had at bowl consideration.
For the Cardinals, that means next week's game at Miami is essentially meaningless.
But when a reporter asked head coach Mike Neu after the loss to Toledo how they plan to keep the motivation high for the final game, he cut them off before they finished the question.
"Pride. Pride. Ball State University," he said. "These seniors came in here as freshmen four or five years ago, and you don't realize how fast it goes by. So everybody else, all the underclassmen and the coaches, are going to make sure we put our best foot forward."
Ball State had high hopes for its 23 seniors after a 3-1 finish during non-conference play.
Now after four straight losses to MAC teams, including Toledo, the seniors are assured that next week's game will be the final one of their careers.
"Nobody wants to lose,” senior linebacker Sean Wiggins said. “You’re mad because you want to win. If you don’t, you’re not a competitor in football or in life. Any loss, no matter how many it is, always sucks.”
Despite the fact the Cardinals already improved their record from last season, they will miss out on a bowl game for the third straight year. They finished 5-7 in 2014, and 3-9 last season in former coach Pete Lembo's final year at the helm.
Ball State has played in four bowl games since 2008, including in both 2012 and 2013, and seven total in school history.
The Cardinals might not have a chance for their first-ever bowl victory, but freshman wide receiver Damon Hazelton Jr. said it shouldn't be hard to get up for the game against the RedHawks Nov. 22.
"We're playing for the Cardinal on our jersey," he said. "Playing for our school, the university, ourselves. You've got to go out the right way. I don't think that's going to be a problem for our team."
Neu believes in his young guys like Hazelton, and knows they will come ready to play in order to send the seniors out on a good note.
For Wiggins, next week's game simply comes down to how he wants to remember his time here.
"It's a manhood thing," Wiggins said. "I was telling the guys towards the end [of the game against Toledo], 'There's a man lined up on the other side of the ball. You're either going to get punked by him, or you're going to beat him. We're either going to fold or hit them in the mouth.'"