Heads hung low as members of Ball State Football walked off the field after a 34-24 loss to Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. There was a sense of disappointment after the loss, but not everything felt by the team was negative.
"I really believe in this football team," head coach Mike Neu said. "I believe we'll respond the right way. When I hugged everyone in the locker room after the game and I looked in their face, the look of determination and disappointment shows that they still believe in each other."
In his fourth season at the helm of the program, Neu's Cardinals suffered their third straight loss to Indiana. However, compared to past seasons, Ball State was in striking distance for the majority of the game. The Cardinal defense picked off Indiana quarterback Michael Penix twice. Ball State's running game also rushed for only 27 fewer yards than the Hoosiers.
However, the Cardinals couldn't make that extra push throughout the game and were consistently chasing a lead. Neu said once the defense would get the ball back to the offense, it struggled to get anything going.
While Indiana amounted a lead as big as 14 in the fourth quarter, Neu said the Cardinals didn't let big plays get them down.
"When we gave up that 75-yard touchdown early in the game, I thought our guys did a great job of just letting it go," Neu said. "It happened. It's over. Let's just play the next play. Any time there was something that happened that went against us, I thought our guys handled it the right way on the sideline."
Even in the early season, redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt said the ability to stay unbothered when down has been a major change for the team from last season.
"Coming out of this locker room now, it's definitely different from last year," Plitt said. "Going down the list, last year, if things didn't go our way, we would just shut down. You saw us out there fighting to the last second. I think this is just going to continue and not stop."
As the clock resets heading into week two, the team believes there is a different mentality from past seasons. Even after a loss to an in-state rival, the sense of belief is still strong up and down the roster.
"I believe with all my heart that this team is right from a character and chemistry standpoint," Neu said. "If you want to play good football and have a chance to put yourself in a good position, it's all about the locker room and making sure every man is on board."