By the time Aug. 31, 2019, came around, it had been 365 days since sophomore receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler’s last touchdown — a whole year without reaching the end zone. It had been too long.
“I needed to get there,” Tyler said.
Tyler burst onto the Ball State Football scene as a freshman in 2018, scoring twice in the Cardinals’ 42-6 season-opening win over Central Connecticut State. The first was a 20-yard lob to the corner of the end zone that only 6-foot-3 Tyler could get. The second was a catch-and-run in which Tyler ran 63 yards down the middle of the field, leaving the defense in the flying turf pellets behind him.
“Scoring in that first game,” Tyler said, “It just brought chills to me because it was in the open field and big environment. It just brought so many chills to me.”
The rest of his freshman season, however, didn’t feature the same success. In the three games following his breakout performance, Tyler failed to catch a single ball. His best game in the last 11 weeks saw him go for just 45 yards.
“Circle back to a year ago,” head coach Mike Neu said. “It was a good starting point for him, but maybe you start to think that’s just going to automatically happen. I think he found out how hard you have to work day in and day out, week in and week out.”
By the time the game clock in Lucas Oil Stadium read 6:36 in the fourth quarter Aug. 31, Tyler decided his scoring drought was going to end.
Redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt rifled a pass to Tyler down the left sideline. Tyler made an Indiana defender miss as he cut back toward the middle, and he extended the ball across the goal line while being tackled from behind.
“It felt great,” Tyler said. “Knowing I needed to get into the end zone for the team and knowing that when I get in a game, that’s where I want to be.”
Plitt was the one who connected with Tyler for his second touchdown a year ago, and he said he felt a bit of déjà vu this time around.“We got to target him a little bit more,” Plitt said. “You saw it in the Indiana game. He’s able to make plays like that, so we’re hoping he can make several more like that for us to help us win.”
Throughout the 2018 season, Neu said the quarterback-receiver chemistry wasn’t quite where it needed to be when it came to scoring in the red zone. Now, Neu says Tyler is much more confident and familiar with what his job is on the field.
“Playing as a true freshman, you’re still thinking about what my assignment is. You’re still thinking about your route. What job do I have? It’s different now,” Neu said. “He’s heard it so many more times now than he did a year ago this time. I think that carries over to being able to show the quarterback, ‘Hey, you can trust me. You know I’m going to do the right thing.’”
Tyler’s next chance to find the end zone will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Scheumann Stadium against Fordham, who fell to Central Connecticut State in week one.
“We won’t take them lightly,” Tyler said. “We’re going to play hard every day. Just like [Neu] says, we want to play every game like they’re the Patriots.”