After knocking off Virginia 20-16 in tough weather conditions Saturday, IU is 2-0 entering its final nonconference matchup of the season against the Ball State.
The Cardinals come to Bloomington with a 1-1 record after a tough loss in South Bend against No. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday.
Here are three key things to know about the Cardinals before Saturday’s matchup.
Ball State has plenty of experience on offense.
After last season’s 2-10 finish, the only way for Ball State to go is up.
There is plenty of returning talent on offense, led by redshirt junior running back James Gilbert, who was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list in 2017 before missing most of the season due to injury.
Sophomore Caleb Huntley filled in admirably for Gilbert last year, rushing for over 1,000 yards and finding the end zone three times. Joining them in the backfield is redshirt junior quarterback Riley Neal, who returns after missing nine games last year.
Neal’s main target will be sophomore receiver Justin Hall, who had a breakout freshman campaign in which he collected 801 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
If Ball State can avoid the injury bug, the Cardinals should be looking at a much-improved team this season.
The Cardinal defense is susceptible to the run.
In the first game of the year, Ball State blew out Central Connecticut State, 42-6.
Despite the score, Ball State’s defense had plenty of trouble stopping CCSU’s rushing attack, as the Blue Devils ran for 174 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
The Cardinal defense looked better against Notre Dame, where it only allowed up 117 yards, but freshman Stevie Scott and the IU offensive line may try to take advantage of Ball State on the ground.
Coach Mike Neu is still looking for his first winning season in Muncie.
A former quarterback at Ball State, Mike Neu returned to his alma mater in 2016 after spending two years as the New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach.
The Cardinals went 4-8 in his first season, then took a step backward with a 2-10 record in 2017.
Neu has found success as a head coach before, but his only previous experience came in the Arena Football League, where he coached both the Augusta Stallions and New Orleans VooDoo to winning records.
It remains to be seen whether Neu will have success at the college level, but with plenty of experience on offense, this may be his best chance at a winning season.
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