The Bronze Stalk Trophy hasn’t resided in Muncie since 2008. When Northern Illinois (2-3, 2-0 MAC) visits Scheumann Stadium Saturday to play Ball State (2-3, 1-0 MAC), the Cardinals will be looking to bring it home.
No matter the outcome, someone is walking away with their first loss in Mid-American Conference play.
“There’s something at stake at the end of the game,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “The main goal is to get to 2-0. We take care of 2-0, and the trophy piece will happen. [NIU] beat us too many years in a row now. The only guys who can do anything about it are the guys on the field.”
Ball State owns a 20-23-2 all-time slate against the Huskies. Not having won the previous nine years, the Cardinals are taking Rivalry Week personally
“You can feel it in the locker room,” redshirt junior offensive lineman Danny Pinter said. “We haven’t beat NIU in a long time. It means a lot to us, and it’s kind of a chip on our shoulder. You can tell everyone wants this one pretty bad.”
The Huskies were picked to win the MAC West in the 2018 MAC Football Media Preseason Poll and currently find themselves atop the division.
Redshirt junior linebacker Jacob White said the intimidation factor hasn’t come into play, and the key to coming away with a win is to keep the tempo up in practice.
“The way we prepare is the way we play. When we practice really well, it shows on game day,” White said. “We’re going to come out and play hard and just do what we do. It’s not going to change anything that we do. It’s still a football game.”
The Cardinals are coming off a 52-24 win over Kent State to open the conference schedule. This was their first victory over a MAC opponent since 2016 and just the second in their last 20 tries.
The offense was clicking last week, specifically in the passing game. Redshirt juniors Riley Neal and Riley Miller each recorded career highs in passing and receiving yards, respectively. The team gained a total of 606 yards on the day.
With confidence soaring high following the blowout win, Pinter said the team has to keep the foot on the gas.
“You can’t get complacent,” Pinter said. “I think everyone is pretty happy with how Saturday went, but the key is to build on that. That’s been the message we’ve been pushing.”
A big contributor to Neal’s record performance was the number of shots he took downfield. Six of Neal’s 30 completions were of 20 yards or longer.
Along with going for it on a pair of fourth downs, the deep passes were part of an aggressive game plan Neu said isn’t changing for the Huskies.
“We got to stay in attack mode,” Neu said. “That’s the most important thing is stay aggressive, stay in attack mode. When you have success, now it’s important to be able to sustain that.”
Ball State and Northern Illinois will battle for the Bronze Stalk Saturday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. in Scheumann Stadium.
Contact Zach Piatt with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.