Scheumann Stadium seats 22,500 fans. Ball State has seen “The Scheu” fill up to just north of 70 percent (15,873) during Family Weekend. In the Cardinals’ other three home games this year, the average attendance comes out to less than 9,000.
The Family Weekend game was a special event where families joined students to cheer on the Cardinals. Homecoming looks to be similar, and head coach Mike Neu is looking forward to seeing a bigger crowd.
“When you come out of the locker room and there’s an ovation, the band is playing, there’s cheers – that gives you a huge boost,” Neu said. “To have that kind of environment, to have that kind of support, that helps you certainly get off to a fast start.”
Coming into a game like Homecoming changes the attitude of the players. There’s a sense of pride and responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with playing in front of former members of Ball State Football.
“It’s no better feeling than playing in front of your crowd, representing the Cardinal across your chest for the people who came before us,” redshirt junior running back James Gilbert said. “I came in freshman year and looked up to the upperclassmen and followed in their footsteps. Being able to see those guys back in the home stands is a great feeling.”
Neu echoed Gilbert’s statement, mentioning that the team’s goal is not only to win the game, but to make the alums proud so they keep returning year after year.
“You take it personal every game you’re fortunate enough to wear a Ball State jersey, Ball State helmet, Ball State clothing on the sideline because you’re representing the university,” Neu said. “We want to make sure we perform. They came back for a reason, and they want to see a good show and they want to see a win.”
The Homecoming turnout is set to be a big one, but the Cardinals are no strangers to a packed house. In week two, they played in front of a crowd at Notre Dame Stadium, which is more than three times the size of what Scheumann can hold. The following week, the Cardinals found themselves in front of more than 40,000 at Indiana University.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jaylin Thomas said those games are what players live for.
“You want to play in front of the biggest crowd. That always makes the game even more fun than what it actually is,” Thomas said. “The atmosphere is unbelievable. Games like those where the crowd is as loud as it can be – it brings more energy to the players, and there’s a whole lot more juice than there would be in any other game.”
At the end of the day, it will be just another game, but there will be more at stake this time around. Ball State (3-4, 2-1 MAC) is going up against a solid Eastern Michigan team (3-4, 1-3 MAC) that has already taken down Purdue on the road and 2017 Mid-American Conference Champion Toledo.
The Cardinals are coming off a comeback win at Central Michigan Oct. 13 where they outscored the Chippewas 17-3 in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals are viewing this week as an opportunity to get to .500 on the season and 3-1 in conference play. Gilbert said he thinks the fans will help the team carry momentum over from last week.
“We feed off our crowd’s energy,” Gilbert said. “Once they get going and we feel that atmosphere, it gets us going and makes us play even harder.”
The Homecoming game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday in Scheumann Stadium.
Contact Zach Piatt with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.