Is Ball State Football the real deal?
The Cardinals (1-2, 0-0 MAC) have come out on every side of the spectrum already in the first three weeks of the season. They blew out Central Connecticut State in their home opener, went toe-to-toe with No. 8 Notre Dame and took a lopsided loss at Indiana.
So which week gave fans an accurate depiction of Ball State Football?
Head coach Mike Neu said his team has overflowing potential, but it has only shown at certain times.
“We just need to get back to playing good football one play at a time and making sure we do that for four quarters,” Neu said. “That’s the main goal for this week is making sure that our guys are still getting better. Being consistent is the biggest thing that needs to show up.”
One area the Cardinals need to improve in is red zone scoring. In their last two games, the Cardinals have driven the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line five times. Three of those drives have resulted in field goals and only two in touchdowns.
“Red zone football is all about detailed football,” redshirt senior receiver Corey Lacanaria said. “Everybody has to be on the same page. Everything is maximized under a microscope at that point. Once we get down in the red zone, we just need to lock in that much more and just focus on the details.”
Yo’Heinz Tyler, a 6-foot-3-inch freshman receiver, could provide an answer.
When a team has a tall receiver who can jump over smaller defenders, the red zone is prime territory to lob up a pass and let the receiver make a play. Tyler proved he can do just that in week one, leaping for a touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone with a defender draped over him.
Neu said the Cardinals had a chance to get Tyler the ball on their first drive against Indiana, but the quarterback-receiver chemistry hasn’t developed all the way yet.
“We just got to keep getting him more reps,” Neu said. “We didn’t throw the one-on-one matchup to him, but we got to get to the point in practice where the quarterback trusts that.”
As far as preparation for Western Kentucky (0-3, 0-0 Conference USA) goes, the process hasn’t changed. Neu said his team was well-prepared for the Hoosiers, but the in-game execution was not up to par.
“We’re going to keep doing our process. We’re going to keep playing our brand of football,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Brandon Martin said. “We had a game against IU where we didn’t perform how we would have liked to. Now we’re focused on Western Kentucky and performing to our full ability.”
As the Cardinals inch closer to their week four matchup, one question remains: Was the Cardinals' performance against Notre Dame a fluke? Lacanaria doesn’t think so. Rather, he said Indiana caught a lucky break.
“That’s just not the way we play ball around here,” Lacanaria said. “If anything was a fluke, it was the Indiana game because we did not play even close to our potential.”
The Cardinals will clash with the Hilltoppers during Family Weekend at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at Scheumann Stadium.