Ball State Football (4-7, 3-4 MAC) may not be going to a bowl game, but it can finish .500 in Mid-American Conference play with a win over Miami (Ohio) (5-6, 5-2 MAC) Tuesday.
While a win would only place the Cardinals as high as fourth in the MAC West, it’s better than last, where they were predicted to wind up in the preseason polls.
“Screw everybody that doubted us,” junior defensive lineman Chris Crumb said. “We were supposed to be awful. We weren’t supposed to win anything. I just want to prove everybody wrong.”
The Cardinals’ four wins through 11 games is especially impressive considering the team’s performance last season. Ball State began the 2017 season with a 2-1 record but would lose its final nine contests, including all eight conference games. The team was plagued with injuries throughout the year, most notably losing starting quarterback Riley Neal and All-MAC running back James Gilbert during that nine-game stretch.
“It sucked because I have so much pride in this school, and then it was like not cool to be a football player,” Crumb said. “Going home and not being able to brag about our school or anything like that is not a good feeling.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Plitt started three games in Neal’s absence last year and has taken over quarterbacking duties the past two weeks with Neal sidelined again with another injury. Plitt said the 2017 season felt just as bad as Crumb described it.
“It was terrible,” Plitt said. “Going 0-8, losing so many games in a row, it just wasn’t fun. Through the whole offseason, everybody was like, ‘We got to get back up. We got to grind, do our thing, come back and compete.’ That’s what we’ve done.”
The Cardinals are coming off a one-point overtime victory on senior night over Western Michigan. Leading up to its last home game, Ball State took three consecutive losses of at least 22 points. Plitt said the win proved the team has more left in the tank and has set the bar high for the future.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Plitt said. “It’s nowhere near where we want to be. We want to be at the top of the list, but it’s a step in the right direction to changing things around here.”
Miami (Ohio) is next up for Ball State. The Cardinals haven’t bested the RedHawks in their last two meetings. Having never beaten them in his time at Ball State, Crumb, a Lewis Center, Ohio, native, said he’s taking the game personally.
“There’s a lot on this game and a lot of passion and emotions that are going to come out during it,” Crumb said. “They’ve got a chance to go to a bowl game; I want to take that from them. I want to send them home just like we’re going. I want them to go enjoy their family on Christmas.”
The Cardinals will have a chance to play the role of spoiler Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Oxford, Ohio.