With bowl eligibility slim to none, junior linebacker Keionté Newson said the 24-21 loss against Bowling Green was not an easy one post-game. He made it clear though that there is still something to play for.
“I cried on Sids [Sidney Houston Jr.] shoulders and told him ‘I’m sorry,’” Newson said. “I talked to Aljareek Malry and just let them guys know I am sorry. They were all just like ‘season ain’t over yet.’”
With three games remaining, Ball State will play for two rivalry trophies in the upcoming weeks. It first starts with Northern Illinois University (NIU) and the battle for the Bronze Stalk on Nov. 7 in DeKalb.
With the loss against Bowling Green, bowl eligibility was in question, being that teams have to win six games to be bowl-eligible. But Neu said there had been teams to make it on 5-7 records, saying there is still a lot to play for.
“Quitting or any other option is simply not an option,” Neu said. “We got to come in here and continue to lay it on the line for each other. I believe our football team will do that.
“We want to stay true to the man sitting in the seat next to us and give it everything we have. Any time you have a chance to put on a uniform that says Ball State, any time you have a chance to put on a helmet that says Ball State with your name on the back [you are] representing. There is a lot to play for.”
Since they played on Wednesday, the Cardinals will have a shortened week heading into the matchup with the Huskies. Neu said the scheduling has had to look different for players this week.
With one less day of preparation, Newson said he focuses on treatment to get his body right with one more day lost.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Damon Kaylor said it helps that the Cardinals are playing a team they are familiar with since the Huskies are in the MAC West with Ball State.
Scouting ahead for NIU, Neu is expecting a close game battle with the Huskies, focusing on their run game and strong defense.
The Huskies' junior running back Antario Brown has over 800 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
Newson said it is going to be key to keep redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi and the receivers at bay.
The mentality is clear for the defense, stop the run with “relentless effort.”
“Stock [assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton] preaches, yells, screams, relentless effort, relentless effort, relentless effort,” Newson said. “Every day if you are not giving relentless effort you are not going to flip it on during the game. If you are not doing it at practice, it will show in the game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kiael Kelly is slated to make his fourth start. He is coming off of a game that saw him have two rushing touchdowns, as well as two turnovers.
Neu said those first-half turnovers “just can’t happen.”
“We cannot turn the ball over and expect to be consistent every week and win football games,” Neu said.
Kaylor said that Kelly’s explosive ability has helped in all aspects of the game, including the offensive line.
A core member of that unit is junior center offensive lineman Ethan Crowe. He went down against the Falcons and his condition is still unknown. He is undergoing testing for the injury sustained.
“Obviously, losing Ethan would be a big blow,” Kaylor said. “Hopefully he is healthy.”
With Crowe going out, graduate offensive lineman Brandon Malkow was able to step into the center position and finish out the game. Kaylor said Malkow is a great player and whatever happens to the group, they are going to stick together.
Kaylor believes that the Cardinals boast the best offensive line in the MAC. He said they have good depth and have solid players as a unit.
With the challenges of losing, Neu expressed that the only thing the team can control is their attitudes and effort.
“When something happens that is not great, what are you going to do, quit? No,” Neu said. “That is not an option, the only way is to attack it head-on.”
The kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. and will be on CBS Sports Network.