Ball State's win over Army goes beyond the field

Cardinals head coach Mike Neu stands on the sideline as his son takes the oath of service for the United States Military Oct. 2, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Black Knights 28-16. Jacob Musselman, DN
Cardinals head coach Mike Neu stands on the sideline as his son takes the oath of service for the United States Military Oct. 2, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Black Knights 28-16. Jacob Musselman, DN

Ball State Football's 28-16 win against Army was bigger than football.

On a night where there were members of the Army in every direction, helicopters flying over the stadium before the game and both teams joining together after the game, as Army sings their alma mater, there was one moment that was particularly special for head coach Mike Neu.

Neu's son, Carson, took the oath for the Army at halftime.

Carson Neu, head coach Mike Neu’s son takes the oath for the United States Military during halftime Oct. 2, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Black Knights 28-16. Jacob Musselman, DN

"I am proud of my son for making the decision to enlist," Neu said. "To be able to see him at halftime... I love him. It was tough in the best way possible because it was such an emotional moment. I am proud of him."

Once the game concluded, both teams joined each other for what, Neu said, was the ultimate sign of respect.

"I think when the game was over and teams shook hands, what an ultimate show of respect to go and be able to support them and stand behind them as they sing their alma mater," Neu said. "For them to come over. I had no idea they were going to come over and stand behind us as we sing our fight song was special."

Cardinals head coach Mike Neu stands on the sideline as his son takes the oath of service for the United States Military Oct. 2, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Black Knights 28-16. Jacob Musselman, DN

On the field, though, there was another moment that helped the Cardinals pull out the win. It was redshirt junior inside linebacker Cole Pearce. He had a career-high 14 total tackles and a tackle for negative yards.

Pearce gave credit to his coaches, defensive linemen and fellow linebackers for his performance and helping him prepare for the Black Knights.

Cardinals redshirt junior inside linebacker Cole Pearce reacts after a tackle for a loss Oct. 2, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Black Knights 28-16. Jacob Musselman, DN

"Coach [Stockton]," Pearce said. "All week, he emphasized on keying in on our matchup. Every day, it was all about getting reps, keeping my eyes on my man and staying locked in every play. If I messed up once, it could have allowed an explosive play. I tried my best to just lock in every play on my key and react."

Pearce started as a walk-on for Ball State, and Neu said how proud he was for Pearce and the work he has put in to get to the point of helping Ball State defeat a team like Army.

"It is unbelievable for this young man," Neu said. "He started in our program as a walk-on. He has worked so hard. For him to step up. He was all over that field tonight making tackles. He was ready for his role. He stayed patient. For him to step in against a team like Army, I am so proud of Cole [Pearce]."

It started when he got time against Penn State and recorded eight tackles in front of over 100,000 people, Redshirt fifth-year quarterback Drew Plitt has played against Pearce in practice all season and said he wasn't surprised by his performance.

"He's an animal," Plitt said. "He is all over the place. He's got great eyes. Just seeing him out there making all of those plays didn't surprise anybody in the building. He does that every day in practice, and he did it all camp. He is one heck of a player, and I am really proud of him because he plays his butt off."

Before Saturday night, Army led the nation in time of possession (40:29). The reason for this is how much they run the ball. The Black Knights entered the game only passing the ball 18 times, which is just six percent of their plays.

Junior inside linebacker Clayton Coll was second in tackles, behind Pearce, with 12 total. He said Army's playstyle allowed him and Pearce to be quick to the ball.

"With me and Cole and the position we are playing," Coll said. "Our job was, either the dive guy, the quarterback guy or the pitch guy. Our goal was to execute at all three levels of their triple-option look. There was also a lot of other good plays in there. We were in position to make plays. We needed to read our keys and execute from there."

Fifth-year safety Bryce Cosby said the linebackers made his job easier and how proud he is of their performances.

"I just love the way he plays," Cosby said. "He plays fast. In football, if you have that skill, a lot of things will sort themselves out. Cole was definitely the player of the game, and I am thankful he is on our team."

Contact Ian Hansen with comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.

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