With playmakers galore, Ball State Football does ‘whatever it takes’ to win

<p>Ball State senior wide reciver Malik Dunner (4) catches a pass against Florida Atlantic at Scheumann Stadium Sept. 14, 2019. The Eagles beat the Cardinals, 41-31. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN</strong></p>

Ball State senior wide reciver Malik Dunner (4) catches a pass against Florida Atlantic at Scheumann Stadium Sept. 14, 2019. The Eagles beat the Cardinals, 41-31. Jacob Musselman, DN

You could go with one of the obvious choices.

Redshirt senior Riley Miller: Ball State’s leading receiver last year as well as the 2018 John Magnabosco Award recipient as the team’s most outstanding player.

Junior Justin Hall: an ESPN Freshman All-American in 2017 who has caught a pass in every game of his Ball State career and at least five in 19 different contests.

Junior Caleb Huntley: a 226-pound running back who has rushed for more than 125 yards on four separate occasions.

You could also pick a sleeper.

Senior Malik Dunner: a running back turned wide receiver and two-time All-Mid-American Conference kick returner.

Graduate transfer Walter Fletcher: a pass-catching running back with a Division II All-American background.

Redshirt senior Antwan Davis: injured most of 2018 but returns to catch two touchdowns in his first game back in Scheumann Stadium.

You can choose whoever you’d like, but head coach Mike Neu would rather leave the debate of who the Cardinals’ top playmaker is as just that — a debate.

“There’s not just one go-to guy,” Neu said. “I think that keeps everybody focused and working hard because when you know it’s a spread-the-ball-around type of offense, it certainly keeps everybody on their toes.”

Through five games, three Cardinals have recorded at least 100 rushing yards. Five have also eclipsed 150 receiving yards.

“Pretty much everybody on the offensive side of the ball is a dynamic player,” Huntley said. “You put the ball in their hands, and there’s no telling what they can do.”

Neu said the amount of depth on this team and the amount of confidence he has in his subs has made it easier to keep players fresh. If a starter comes out of the game, Neu added, the offense doesn’t lose anything when another player goes in.

“We’ve worked awful hard to develop depth, and I think guys have done a great job of just stepping up when their number has been called,” Neu said. “That’s a big advantage for us that we’re going to continue to do going forward.”

Ball State redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt (9) breaks out of the pile with the ball in a game against Florida Atlantic Sept. 14, 2019. The Cardinals lost to the Eagles, 41-31. Jacob Musselman, DN

Another advantage the Cardinals have is being a balanced offense, something Neu said his teams have always strived for. Through the first four games, they were first in the Mid-American Conference in passing offense.

In Ball State’s MAC opener against Northern Illinois, the passing game wasn’t clicking as the team completed just four passes all day. The Cardinals switched gears at halftime and went on to rush for 235 yards and secure a comeback victory.

“We’re a dangerous offense. We knew that in ourselves,” redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt said. “Our run game has obviously been overshadowed by our pass game, but … we put both those offenses together, and it’s tough to stop.”

Without the worry of who is in the game on each play, Neu can focus squarely on how to win, and he said that’s been simple given the team’s mindset.

“It’s a whatever-it-takes type of offense,” Neu said. “Whatever it takes to win that respective game — if we got to run it, if we got to throw it — whatever it takes, and that’s the unselfish mindset you love about every guy. Being unselfish and making sure the ultimate thing — the only thing — that matters is just getting a W.”

Ball State will travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan, Saturday, Oct. 12 to take on Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m.

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


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