ATHENS, GA. –– Kadin Semonza’s High School, Mission Viejo, holds 8,000 fans for a football game. The University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium holds 92,746 fans for a football game.
12 months ago, Kadin Semonza lined up against high schoolers.
Now a freshman at Ball State, Semonza lined up against the No. 1 team in the nation. Not only did Semonza start against a program coming off of back-to-back national championships, but was doing so in a Southeastern Conference (SEC) environment.
“Coming out of high school, it is good for me to see the speed [of the SEC],” Semonza said. “I did not go out there and think I did not belong here today.”
With thousands of fans screaming in a big stadium against the best of the best, Semonza was living his dream. Head coach Mike Neu told to “embrace the boos.”
“It was a dream come true,” Semonza said.
With a good week of practice and a strong week one showing against Kentucky, Neu named Semonza as the week two starter.
Even after the big news, Semonza said his preparation for game day did not change, saying he always prepares as if he is the starter.
The first quarter saw the Cardinal defense go toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs. To the shock of many, each side was scoreless after the first 15 minutes.
The second quarter saw Semonza throw three interceptions, and to start the second half, graduate student Layne Hatcher took over under center. Semonza might have awoken from the dream.
“Unfortunately I did not play very well today to help my brothers,” Semonza said. “I have to play better no matter whose fault anything was.”
The decision to replace Semonza, Neu said, was made because of a couple hits Semonza took in the first half. The eight-year head coach said Hatcher’s experience made it a clear choice to put him in for the second half.
Semonza credited the wide receiver group though, saying they are great weapons and he’ll continue to put his trust in them greatly. Neu saw no shame in Semonza’s turnovers, saying a couple of those could have gone either way.
Redshirt junior running back Marquez Cooper said when fumbles and interceptions come, the Cardinals are not only giving up the football, but the momentum as well.
“We are just giving [the opponent] the game,” Cooper said.
Junior linebacker Keionte Newson has stepped up in the linebacker position due to senior Clayton Coll being out indefinitely with his injury sustained to his leg in week one. Newson has been playing safety all preseason, so he said getting up to speed inside the box was a challenge when the game started.
“I was challenged all week by Tyler Stockton [defensive coordinator and assistant head coach],” Newson said. “He got me ready and I most definitely took on the challenge at full speed.”
Newson even forced a fumble on the Bulldogs opening drive on offense. He said he saw Georgia quarterback, junior Carson Beck try to make a move, was able to hit him and forced the ball out.
Even though Georgia recovered the ball, the defending national champions missed the following 28-yard field goal attempt.
Newson said no opponent for the rest of the season is going to match Georgia physically, but at the end of the day, football is football. In fact, he said the speed of SEC competition will prepare them well for Mid-American Conference (MAC) play.
With the strength of the Bulldog defense, Cooper was forced to scramble for yards behind a struggling offensive line. However, he said he was not fazed and was ready to get to the next play and not dwell on the past.
“I am not going to look at [the level of competition] any differently,” Cooper said. “An opponent is an opponent.”
Amongst the 42-point loss, Neu said he saw the Cardinals come together with a strong attitude.
“We wanted to see us attacking with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude,” Neu said. “I thought the guys took the field with that attitude.”
Neu said the attitude throughout was high, loving the energy Ball State brought, and said the Cardinals are looking forward to the upcoming weeks of competition.
“I stress, we competed,” Neu said. “Our guys gave it everything they had, you have to give them credit…We are moving on full speed ahead here.”
Newson thinks the defense can improve on missed tackles heading into the rest of the season. Semonza said the offense has a couple of miscommunications to clean up to get everyone on the same page and to have success in the weeks ahead..
“We are going to prepare and turn things around,” Semonza said.
Ball State will be back in Muncie to face Indiana State at 2:00 p.m. in Scheumann Stadium for Family Weekend Sept. 16.