After being down by as much as 13 points to Central Michigan, Ball State Football roared back in the fourth quarter to escape with a narrow 24-23 victory over the Chippewas.
While the Cardinals did walk away with the win, there were many aspects of the game that can be brought into next week's matchup against Eastern Michigan and a few that should be left in Mount Pleasant.
Defense needs to stop the rush
The Chippewas ran all over the Cardinals Saturday, collecting 285 rushing yards to the Cardinals' 189. While the Cardinals proved to be lockdown in the end zone only allowing the Chippewas to score two touchdowns, Central Michigan moved the chains 15 times during the game, and the Cardinals only had nine first downs on the day. Chippewa quarterback Tommy Lazzaro also went off to rush for 131 yards.
Neal has the yardage but needs to connect
Redshirt junior quarterback Riley Neal has had a handful of big throws this season. Only two weeks ago Neal passed his career high in single-game passing yardage with 402 yards and would have 183 Saturday. However, in the past two matchups, Neal has completed only 65 percent of his passes. Neal did have a strong day Saturday, completing 73 percent of his passes, but he needs to stay consistent in order for the Cardinals to stay competitive for the next five weeks.
Hagee is a force for the Cardinals
Senior kicker Morgan Hagee has been a clutch player for the Cardinals in the last two weeks. Last weekend against Northern Illinois, Hagee proved he could go the distance, hitting a career-long 51-yard field goal to go along with one from 47. After missing a 47-yarder on Saturday, Hagee redeemed himself to hit the game-winning field goal with 47 seconds left. Hagee has hit 11 of 15 field goals this season with 73.3 percent of his kicks on target.
Cardinals need to stay close in second quarter
Ball State walked out of the first quarter only down by a field goal. Going into the locker room at halftime, the Cardinals were down 13. While the Cardinals did rally back in the second half, slow second quarters have been an issue this season. Back in week two, the Cardinals were tied at three with Indiana before ending the half in a 20-point hole. The Cardinals will face an Eastern Michigan team next weekend who racked up 28 points in the second half on conference champion favorite Toledo.