Mutual respect between Huntley, O-line sets Ball State up for rushing success

<p>Junior running back Caleb Huntley dunks the ball on the goal post after scoring a touchdown against Fordham Sept. 7, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Huntley averaged 4.9 yards per carry during the game. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN</strong></p>

Junior running back Caleb Huntley dunks the ball on the goal post after scoring a touchdown against Fordham Sept. 7, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Huntley averaged 4.9 yards per carry during the game. Jacob Musselman, DN

Junior running back Caleb Huntley’s last two games have been ones to remember, rushing for more than 150 yards in each, and he has his offensive line of what he describes as the “Berlin Wall” to thank for it.

“It’s hard to get them out of the way,” Huntley said. “I definitely know my success is because of them. I can’t do anything but thank them. I know they got my back, and I definitely got their back.”

But the appreciation isn’t one-sided. There’s a mutual respect between Huntley and the O-line. Redshirt senior offensive lineman Danny Pinter said even with a strong line, you can’t just throw any old running back in the backfield.

“Caleb’s awesome. We love Caleb. He’s probably our favorite player up front if we had to choose one,” Pinter said. “When he’s out there, he’s running the ball hard every single play. Whether it’s 2 yards or 50 yards, he’s running the ball the same way the whole game. He makes our job easier when he runs like that.”

Junior running back Caleb Huntley shakes off Fordham defenders in Ball State's home opener at Scheumann Stadium Sept. 7, 2019. The Cardinals beat the Rams, 57-29. Jacob Musselman, DN

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Luke Martin said Huntley is the one making the line look good, not the other way around.

“With a back like Caleb who is 220 [pounds] and can run like a back that’s 180 [pounds] — he’s not going to get tackled by the first guy who hits him,” Martin said. “If you watch film, it takes two to three guys, sometimes even four or five, just to get him down.”

The Cardinals are averaging more than 155 yards per game on the ground, but in their last two contests, they’ve run for a combined 431 yards. Head coach Mike Neu said the team’s running game is “as good as it’s been.” The recent rushing success has the offense getting excited when it knows a run play is coming up.

“We love it,” Martin said. “Passing plays, big plays — we need that to win a game, but to run the ball for 150, 200 yards each game really shows the defense that you mean business.”

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Luke Martin gets set against Florida Atlantic University Sept. 14, 2019 at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals lost 41-31. Jacob Musselman, DN

Ball State has started the same offensive line for the last three games. Those five players have started a combined 70 games up front. Pinter said a big part of the O-line’s success has been due to the chemistry it has, and it’s gotten to a point where each lineman knows what the other is going to do next. It also has Neu feeling confident in his play calling.

“It all starts with the guys up front, and they’ve done such a good job of being consistent every week,” Neu said. “It’s a very strong unit all the way across the board. When it’s a run play called and it’s an obvious run situation where we know we got to put the ball in their hands and put the play in their hands, we feel very good about it.”

The Cardinals have shown they can pass the ball as redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt leads the Mid-American Conference in passing yards per game. But when Ball State gets the run game going, Huntley said defenses should be thinking one thing:

“It’s going to be a long day.”

Next on the schedule for Ball State is its Homecoming game Saturday against Toledo. The Rockets currently lead the MAC in rushing, so the ball could stay on the ground for the majority of the game. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.

Contact Zach Piatt with comments at zapiatt@bsu.edu or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.

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