Ball State Cardinals vs Tennessee Tech preview
The Ball State Cardinals come into their second home game of the season heavily favored. But Cardinals coach Mike Neu talked all week about making sure the team didn’t lose any momentum from a runaway win over UAB and a solid effort in the opener at Illinois.
Ball State (1-1) won’t be taking Tennessee Tech (0-2), an FCS foe from the Ohio Valley Conference, lightly.
“It doesn’t matter if its FBS, FCS or whatever,” Neu said. “We’re going to get their best effort. They’re hungry for their first win.”
Tennessee Tech has never beaten an FBS squad and has gone 0-31 since 1978.
“Their mindset is to come in here and get an upset, period,” Neu said. “Just because we won at home last week, there’s no guarantee.”
The Cardinals will be without leading tackler and team captain Jacob White. Starting linemen Alex Joss is also likely out for the season.
Each of Ball State’s running backs, James Gilbert, Malik Dunner and Caleb Huntley, scored last week, and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see that repeated as the Cardinals have shared the wealth early on, and will probably have a good chance to continue that against Tennessee Tech.
While the offense has kept it conservative, for the most part, it has excelled in several areas. The Cardinals’ 60.5 percent conversion rate on third downs (23-of-38) ranks fourth nationally, while their time of possession average of 35:36 ranks 11th nationally. Quarterback Riley Neal hasn’t made many mistakes in the first two games, posting his third-highest completion percentage in his career (67.6) last week against UAB.
Looking at this game objectively, it won’t be about the score (unless it’s a close game) as Ball State will likely cruise. It will be interesting to see if Ball State can put forth a dominant effort without showing too much of its arsenal heading into a much more challenging matchup the following week at defending Conference USA champion Western Kentucky.
“I worry as much about progressing and making sure we’re getting better from last week as anything,” Neu said.