Ball State Football (1-0, 0-0 MAC) opened up its season with a dominant win over Central Connecticut State (0-1, 0-0 NEC), 42-6. While the Cardinals held it down on both sides of the ball, it was their rushing game that proved to be the biggest difference of the game.
“We’ve been waiting for this night as a team,” head coach Mike Neu said. “Our players have been chomping at the bit since last season and we’ve been putting in the hard work since January. I’m so happy for our players and our locker room to just stay together the way they did and to get to tonight. We made it count.”
It was redshirt junior running back James Gilbert leading the charge on the field with 100 rushing yards and a touchdown on the night. Alongside Gilbert, sophomore running back Caleb Huntley followed, rushing for 73 yards.
“This year is going to have a lot of split back formations, so anyone can get the ball,” Gilbert said. “We’re basically making the best of the situation when the carrier has the ball to get the best opportunity.”
The Cardinals were dominant throughout the game on their feet holding a consistent 100-yard advantage on the Blue Devils throughout. In passing, the Cardinals also held a substantial divide, passing a total of 336 yards with redshirt junior quarterback Riley Neal completing 23 of 30 attempted passes and throwing one touchdown. Redshirt sophomore Drew Plitt would add to the total completing five of six attempted passes.
The Cardinals also surpassed last season’s high in overall yardage of 466 yards vs. Tennessee Tech and set a new school record in overall yardage, collecting 652 total yards. The Cardinals would later pass last season’s high in rushing yards of 293 vs. Miami (OH), collecting 316 total rushing yards.
“Passing last season markers is definitely going to benefit our confidence going forward,” Neu said. “It was good to see our guys have that kind of success and they’ve been looking forward to this day. I’m proud of them and the credit goes to those guys. I said before we got on the bus this afternoon, they were the only ones that can control this game. There were a few things that we can clean up, but they were ready to play and I’m proud of them.”
The Cardinals will look to use this offensive flex as a boost into next weekend facing No. 12 Notre Dame. Last season, the Irish held a season high of 515 rushing yards against USC and rushed an average 269 yards per game.
“Tonight was just proof that our guys’ beliefs are true,” Neu said. “We’ve got some talented players and several guys that can make some plays, deservedly so. It’s a confidence thing and our guys know that every week is a new week. We made tonight count, but tomorrow it’s over and we gotta get to work on the next opponent. We have a great week of preparation before we get on the bus to South Bend.”