Mike Neu said he doesn’t remember his first homecoming as a player in 1990, but he will never forget his last.
Now-head coach of Ball State football, Neu was playing quarterback for the Cardinals in the Homecoming game against Toledo.
“I just remember everybody left at halftime and rightfully so,” Neu said.
Ball State was down 30-3 at halftime but made the comeback to win the game late.
“For us to come back and win, that was a great day and a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ll never forget that one, that one at the top of my list. Obviously, every time [I] get the chance to talk to my former teammates that seems to come up, which is not a bad thing.”
The Cardinals host Eastern Michigan in the 2022 homecoming game with both sides coming into the matchup 4-3 overall. Ball State played a comeback role in the last three games, defeating Northern Illinois in overtime, beating Central Michigan 17-16 after trailing most of the game and most recently knocking off UConn with a shutout in the second half after being behind 21-10 at halftime.
“We’ve been coming out the second half on fire,” senior cornerback Amechi Uzodinma said. “Put a full game together on offense and defense, and I feel like if we do that, [there’s] really nobody that can stop us.”
Despite the weekend festivities, Uzodinma said the main focus is to be the winning team at the end of the day.
“Homecoming really doesn't mean much for the players,” he said. “We’re not really part of the festivities and stuff; we’re really just trying to get a win on homecoming, and really just getting the win is the most important part, and obviously you don’t want to lose on homecoming.”
Tale of the Tape
The Eagles sit above .500, but only one of their four wins has come in the Mid-American Conference (MAC): a 45-23 win over Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Eastern’s rushing sits seventh in the MAC, averaging 139 yards per game while its passing game, which averages 220 yards per game, ranks eighth.
The game will be a coming together of two top MAC running backs as Eagles senior running back Samson Evans is currently third in the conference on the ground with 634 yards and six touchdowns. Evans sits two spots behind Ball State’s sophomore running back Carson Steele who leads the league with 789 yards and eight touchdowns.
“With a guy like Carson, I think he does wear down a defense as he goes,” offensive coordinator Kevin Lynch said on the Chirp Cast Coaches Show. “He always is better in the second half as [he] gets going because one, you get a feel for it a little bit, you start seeing it, but [two], as defenses get tired, it’s natural. He’s just a harder guy to tackle as the game goes on.”
The MAC’s current sack leader with seven, graduate student defensive lineman Jose Ramirez will be a defensive player the Cardinals keep their eye on. Ball State does boast the best record against sacks, only giving up six in seven games this season.
“They’ve got a guy that leads the country in sacks; he’s [Ramirez] a really good player so we’ve got to be aware of number four at all times,” Lynch said. “... The first four weeks of the season, they were what I’ve known Eastern Michigan to be my whole time in the MAC with what we consider a shell defense and playing a lot of zones, you know ‘Bend but don’t break,’ and the last three weeks they’ve been pretty much all man coverage and really aggressive in letting the defensive ends get up the field and wreak havoc.”
At the end, redshirt sophomore defensive lineman John Harris has a favorite part of Homecoming.
“Looking up in the stands, seeing a full crowd and then picking out a few players that you used to play with that are coming back,” he said. “Then after the game, hanging out with them, talking to them and just seeing what’s going on in their life.”