Freshman running back Carson Steele understands the Cardinals offensive line doesn’t get the recognition they deserve.
“Every snap, they don't really get the credit that they need,” Steele said. “They're doing the dirty work, but you know the people in the stands don't see that.”
Ball State (4-3, 2-1 MAC) defeated Eastern Michigan (4-2, 1-2 MAC) 38-31 Saturday afternoon for its third consecutive win. The Cardinals have won eight of their last nine against the Eagles at Rynearson Stadium.
Steele finished with a career-high 140 yards on 18 attempts. Redshirt senior running back Will Jones and Steele each recorded one touchdown on the ground. Steele credits the offensive line for creating the opportunities that led to 200 rushing yards between him, Jones and redshirt fifth-year wide receiver Justin Hall.
"They stepped up and played a big role today,” Steele said. “Obviously, you can tell seeing those holes today, a little kid could have ran through those lines. They were huge and so well executed. Definitely, shoutout to them, very thankful for them.”
After the offensive line fought injuries and lineup changes at the beginning of the season, head coach Mike Neu was pleased with the mental toughness and fortitude of the unit.
“I think it's really just been such a credit to that group of young men for different guys to be ready to step up when their numbers called,” Neu said. “I mention this a lot, Coach (Colin) Johnson doesn't get enough credit, because even going back to spring practice or training camp, he trained guys at multiple positions because something like this is going to happen. There's going to be an injury, you might start the season at right guard, but you might end up somewhere else. I think it's been a credit to our coaching staff for the type of young men that we're recruiting and Coach Johnson for the type of young men that we’re recruiting on the offensive line.”
Hall led the Cardinals in receiving with 10 catches for 58 yards. Hall scored twice, with each rushes coming on jet-sweeps near the goal-line.
Fifth-year quarterback Drew Plitt threw for 207 yards and one touchdown on 27-of-35 passing. His lone touchdown went to senior wide receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler on a 11-yard pass in the third quarter. The offensive line allowed zero sacks.
"We're playing against some good football teams," Neu said. "That was a huge performance by our guys up front on the offensive line, and to have over 200 yards rushing yards and allow no sacks, it was awesome. It was a great performance and (I'm) just proud of that group."
Graduate student safety J.T. Wahee intercepted senior quarterback Ben Bryant as the Eagles drove down the field in the second quarter. Wahee believes his turnover created momentum for the Cardinals.
“I think it uplifted us,” Wahee said. “It felt good, (it) was just me doing my job, making a play on the ball when the opportunity came. It uplifted the whole team, not just the defense.”
With 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Eastern Michigan trailed 38-31 and had zero timeouts remaining. Bryant was intercepted by senior safety Malcom Lee, subsequently ending the game.
Bryant completed 35-of-48 attempts for 331 yards and one touchdown. Senior running back Jawon Hamilton led the Eagles in rushing (40 yards), while junior wide receiver Dylan Drummond spearheaded the receiving attack (seven receptions, 105 yards and one touchdown).
Ball State returns to Scheumann Stadium Oct. 23 against Miami-Ohio (3-4, 2-1 MAC). Kickoff is 3:30 p.m.