With two games left, Ball State football is not showing signs of slowing down. The Cardinals will take on Kent State Saturday, Nov. 18, starting at 2:00 p.m.
Head coach Mike Neu made it clear that there is always something to play for. He said players only get so many games, and for seniors, the time is winding down for their time at Ball State. With that being said, Neu said that they won’t take anything for granted and finish the fight.
“There is a lot to play for,” Neu said. “Anytime you have a chance to play a game, I don’t give a damn if it is pickup basketball or checkers. I don’t care what it is, you are a competitor, you want to win and put your best foot forward. I commend our guys for doing that.”
Neu said the Flashes have had a lot to deal with this year with injuries and a new head coach. Even if Kent State comes in at 1-9 and 0-6 in the MAC, Neu is expecting them to fight, claw and battle on Saturday.
“I do not care what Kent State's record is, they are a football team,” Neu said.
Coming off the last-second win against Northern Illinois University, Neu said he thought the Cardinals played well in situational football. Whether it be the final kick, a defensive stand or an offensive drive.
Part of the defensive stand was a forced fumble to give the Cardinals back the ball late in the fourth quarter. In total, the defense forced three turnovers, Neu said the defense has been consistent in the past weeks. With the offense showing results, he said the team will keep on getting better.
Two of the three fumbles recovered were recovered by graduate student defensive lineman Mikhari Sibblis.
Sibblis said the emphasis on forcing turnovers is always pushed in practice. When it comes time to play, it will show up on the field.
Even if he is coming off of a strong showing, Sibblis is looking for the defense to improve and string together a complete game. Putting the puzzle pieces together for all four quarters.
Ever since the loss to Bowling Green, Neu said he saw a toughness after that game in their ability to bounce back.
“The focus on the practice field that week, my hat is off to our guys,” Neu said. “That is where it all started how the guys bounced back from a tough loss on the road.”
With two games left, Sibblis said the motivation for the team still runs high.
“Motivation is up there and the intensity is up there,” Sibblis said. “Everyone is giving it all they got. There is no quit in this team.”
Someone who brings motivation is redshirt sophomore Kiael Kelly. Neu said Kelly’s work ethic that he brings to practice elevates the other teammates around him.
Neu said Kelly can adjust in the game to ensure that the right players are on the field. He is also able to check if teammates are in the right spot when the play starts. Neu said all these growing spots show just how hard he works off the field.
With Kelly’s ability to take over at quarterback, Neu said Kelly has receptive abilities to better himself that is making him stand out.
“He’s grown every single week since he started that first game against Toledo,” Neu said. “He has continued to get better and learn from his mistakes. That is the key in all of this.”
While Kelly has been developing under center, next to him is redshirt junior running back Marquez Cooper.
Cooper said Kelly and he are getting better and better together and improving every single day. With Kelly under center, Cooper said their run ability is helping them both out. He said that if a team is focused on him, Kelly can take it. If a team is focused on Kelly, Cooper takes it. It is a relationship that goes together.
“We are just going to keep the train rolling,” Cooper said. “Our record definitely does not reflect how good this team could be.”
Although he is facing his former team, Cooper said there is no bad blood with his teammates from Kent State. He said he is excited to see past teammates.
With Cooper sitting 767 rushing yards, he is nearing his goal of 1000 yards this season.
“It is added motivation; it is my biggest motivation to try to get there,” Cooper said. “[It would be the] third year in a row.
Cooper said the coaches have joked and claimed the game against Kent Staet will be the ‘Cooper Cup.’
With both final games being at home for the Cardinals, Neu said he is focused on playing good football and continuing to fight.
“Every opportunity is a blessing,” Cooper said. “Even if it is playing against my old team and coaches. It is a blessing to put on shoulder pads and a helmet.”
Contact Elijah Poe via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @ElijahPoe4.