Making history is nothing new for Ball State Football in 2020.
It all started this past offseason — back when a season was still up in the air — when senior safety Bryce Cosby had a fiery speech that ended with the mantra the Cardinals have had all season: Detroit or bust.
Ball State not only made it to Detroit, but it also won its first Mid-American Conference Championship in 24 years, defeating Buffalo 38-28.
The Cardinals now have an opportunity to make more history and potentially win their first bowl game in school history, as they will play San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl Dec. 31. Head coach Mike Neu said the adrenaline from that win has turned into focus for one last game.
“I can tell the focus has already shifted,” Neu said. “It is full speed ahead here for the opportunity to play a team like San Jose State. Both teams have similar stories. With both teams winning a championship, it is going to be a great battle.”
Both teams won just two games in 2017 and had to battle through adversity to get to the point they are at now. This season, both teams won their respective conference titles and lost a combined one game.
That one game was when the Cardinals played 2019 MAC Champion Miami (Ohio) and lost 38-31 in the final minutes. It was the first game of the season, and redshirt senior quarterback Drew Plitt said he knew his team was capable of much more than what it displayed.
“I think it was a deciding factor in us saying, ‘No more. We are better than this,’” Plitt said. “As we went through every week, we got better. That kind of proved to us who we are and that we are better than everybody.”
The Cardinals haven’t lost a game since and will now be tasked with defeating a second consecutive nationally ranked opponent in No. 19 San Jose State.
The Spartans are led by quarterback Nick Starkel, who has thrown for 1,906 yards and 16 touchdowns. Defensively, defensive lineman Cade Hall has led by example this season with 10 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
“They are a great defensive team and a great offensive team,” Plitt said. “Like [Neu] said, they haven’t seen us yet. We are a different breed as well. It comes down to going out, and playing our ball and executing at a high level.”
Brandon Martin — who leads the MAC with 85 tackles — said he is excited for the challenge of playing a talented offense and said he believes in what his coaching staff has planned to contain it.
“Nick Starkel is a really good quarterback. He has a lot of good weapons on the outside,” Martin said. “It is like every week. Every week, we have had a challenge. We are looking forward to another one. We are putting a lot of trust into the defensive staff to put together a good game plan.”
For Martin, he said it’s as simple as treating this game as another regular season game and not letting the pressure get to him.
“The biggest thing I have learned this season is just understanding how to close the close games,” Martin said. “I also learned how to adapt and take those championship games and treat them as regular games.”