There is the old saying, “You live and you learn.”
This is the same mindset Ball State Football (0-1 MAC) has after a 38-31 loss to Miami (Ohio) (1-0 MAC).
The Cardinals were tied up with the RedHawks at 31 points. Ball State had the ball on its 27-yard line with 42 seconds left in the game, and they were sniffing victory. Redshirt freshman kicker Jack Knight had just hit a 47-yard field goal to tie the game, and head coach Mike Neu said he was oozing with confidence. All they had to do was get into field goal range.
However, those hopes were lost when redshirt senior quarterback Drew Plitt attempted to throw the ball over the linebacker’s head which was ultimately intercepted, leading to a Miami (Ohio) victory.
Not all hope was lost for the season. Despite the result, the goal remains the same for Ball State, and that is to win the Mid-American Conference.
“We have to put this behind us,” Neu said. “We have to learn from the film, the mistakes and the things we can correct and improve on. It has been a year since we played in a football game so we have to learn from that. There were times where didn’t make them earn it.”
Despite the loss and the interception which ultimately gave the RedHawks the win, Neu was able to pull positives from the game which he believes will benefit them moving forward.
The first being the performance from senior running back Caleb Huntley, who ran for 131 yards on 21 attempts and two touchdowns. Neu talked about his impact and how he disrupts the defense.
“He can wear on a defense,” Neu said. “I thought some of the runs, we were getting them on tempo, and we hit them on a long 45-yard touchdown, and he did a really good job of making the first guy miss. On the last touchdown, he did a great job of sticking his foot in the ground and hitting the seam.”
Neu was also proud of the production from senior wide receiver Justin Hall, who had four receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Neu still believes there were missed opportunities and he thinks the production could have been higher if some things went their way.
“If you look at Justin, he had unbelievable production,” Neu said. “But we still had some missed opportunities where we hit him in stride there on the one, and perhaps he takes it in for a touchdown there when he had the go route on the boundary.”
While there were missed opportunities, such as the last drive, the team understands it is only the first game of the season, and if they keep their head down they will have little chance of bouncing back.
“We are trying to get down there and do a good job with two-minute execution and clocking the ball when needed, but we didn’t get it done,” Neu said. “I told the team afterward, ‘We need to own it. When we leave this locker room, we have to decide if we are going to keep our chin up.’
We win as a team and lose as a team, and we can’t let that determine the rest of our season.”
The Cardinals came into the season with a ‘Detroit or Bust’ mantra, and that has not changed. He still believes his team can be champions. Plitt is going into the next game with this same approach, and he truly believes it will pay off.
“Our approach doesn’t change at all,” Plitt said. “We have the same mindset and that is Detroit or bust. We came into every day before this game with that mindset and we will go into every day after this game with that mindset.”
Neu knows every game in the conference is going to be a battle, and he is trying to instill it in his team not to dwell on the loss, and instead, prepare for the next battle
“We have to get back here and make sure we keep our chin up and get back to work because we have Eastern Michigan coming to town next Wednesday night,” Neu said. “That’s the great thing about this conference. It is competitive from top to bottom so every week is going to be a dog fight, and we have to learn from our mistakes and get back at it.”
For Plitt, he is following Neu’s words because their confidence remains the same.
“Our goal is still alive and it is still well,” Plitt said.
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ianh_2.