The record may say 1-3, but Ball State Football is approaching the first week of Mid-American Conference play like it’s a new season.
“We’re 0-0. We’ve got a weekly goal, and we’ve got to get to 1-0 at the end of this week,” head coach Mike Neu said. “We talked about last week dominating our job. Each guy has got to be able to do that… That’s at a premium this week.”
The Cardinals haven’t dominated the MAC in recent years. In fact, they haven’t won a conference game since they beat Buffalo for their lone MAC victory two seasons ago. Regardless, junior running back Malik Dunner said the attitude approaching this week isn’t changing.
“Our mindset going in is just win, win, win,” Dunner said. “For us, we’re hungry to go get the MAC. I feel like those non-conference games are measuring sticks. I’m just ready to go into the MAC and get some Ws. Now we should be full go with a full head of steam.”
While a 1-3 non-conference record isn’t flattering, ESPN favored the Cardinals to win in only two of those games. They were heavy underdogs on the road against Notre Dame and Indiana.
Neu said the start to the season was promising with a blowout win and competing with the Irish, but inconsistent was how he described the offense’s overall play.
“We’ve had some challenges playing two good defensive football teams,” Neu said. “Certainly, after we started out the season with that opening night, everybody wants to maintain that. We’ve got to become more consistent. We’ve got to sustain drives and score more points. That really is what it comes down to.”
Losing two road games may not have been the desired outcome, but redshirt junior running back James Gilbert said those games helped the Cardinals in the end. He said playing Power Five schools prepared the team for the rest of the season, knowing the toughest challenge is already in the past.
“You play games like that so you can get ready to dominate your conference schedule,” Gilbert said. “We’re looking forward to getting our first win in the conference because we have so much in front of us. We can still go to the MAC Championship. We can still go to a bowl game. There’s a lot still ahead of us for this team.”
The Cardinals haven’t left the state of Indiana yet this season and won’t until they travel to Central Michigan in week seven. Staying close to home has provided a sense of familiarity for the team. The Cardinals open their conference schedule at home the first two games.
“No better place to be at than home,” Dunner said. “Being in front of your family and friends and whatnot—just being at home having the atmosphere here, it can’t be matched.”
The Cardinals will host Kent State (1-3, 0-0 MAC) at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Scheumann Stadium.