Kelly Shorts Stadium – Mt. Pleasant, MI
American Sports Network/ESPN3
This has been a close series overall, with Ball State holding a 24-23-1 advantage overall and 6-4 edge in the last 10 meetings. CMU took a 23-21 decision last year in Muncie.
After starting 2016 with three straight wins, Central Michigan has now dropped two straight. With a 49-35 loss at Virginia to close out non-conference play, the Chippewas . . .
That latest loss was likely a lot harder to swallow on a couple counts:
1. It was at home
2. It was the MAC opener
3. It was a key matchup against the West Division favorite. Even if the Broncos stumble somewhere along the line, there is that tiebreaker thing. That didn’t work out so well for CMU last year.
4. For the second week in a row, Central surrendered 49 points. Unlike the loss at Virginia, however, CMU’s offense managed just 10 points.
The Cardinals rallied to tie Northern Illinois 24-all early in the fourth quarter, but NIU quickly struck back with a Kenny Golladay TD reception at 11:14 and kept BSU off the board the rest of the way.
Here is more on the two teams:
BALL STATE CARDINALS (3-2, 0-1 MAC)
► Ball State beat CMU five consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2014.
► Former MAC Offensive Player of the Year (1993) Mike Neu is in his first season as head coach of his alma mater. His most recent coaching experience was as quarterback coach for the New Orleans Saints.
► Sophomore RB James Gilbert ran for 119 yards on 22 carries and scored all three of the Cardinals’ touchdowns against Northern Illinois.
► Sophomore quarterback Riley Neal completed 23 of 40 passes for 276 yards last week. Neal has hit 59.4 percent on the year with five TDs and 4 picks.
►Senior KeVonn Mabon and freshman Damon Hazelton Jr. combined for 12 catches and 189 yards against NIU. Mabon ranks fifth among MAC receivers in receptions (5.8 rpg).
► Senior safety Corey Hall (11), sophomore CB Josh Miller (11) and senior Martez Hester (10) all reached double digits in tackles last week.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS (3-2, 0-1 MAC)
► Last week’s match-up against Western Michigan drew 30,411 fans, the second-largest crowd in Kelly/Shorts Stadium history. The largest was in 2012, when Michigan State defeated the Chippewas 41-7.
► Quarterback Cooper Rush has completed 109 of 176 pass attempts (61.9%) for 1,537 yards and 14 TDs with five interceptions.
► CMU’s passing offense is No. 21 in the nation and No. 2 in the MAC.
► Four Chippewas receivers have at least 200 yards receiving and have combined for 73 receptions, 1,129 yards and 12 touchdowns. Corey Willis (24/395/6), Tyler Conklin (19/264/2), Mark Chapman (17/256/3), Jessie Kroll (13, 214, 1). Rush hs connected with six teammates for 14 TD passes this season.
► Devon Spalding leads CMU rushing with 55 carries for 266 yards and a TD. Jonathan Ward has 30 rushes for 177 yards and two scores. Jahray Hayes leads the squad in scores with four of the team’s seven rushing TDs.
► Kicker Brian Eavey booted his longest field goal of the season last week (45 yards).
► Sophomore line backer Malik Foutain leads CMU defenders with 32 tackles, including a team-high 4.0 TFL. Joe Ostman also has 4.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks among his 22 stops.
► Junior DB Amari Coleman hs two interceptions on the year and returned both for touchdowns. Overall, CMU has six interceptions, tied with Ohio for the MAC lead.
► Two sophomores – Cooper Mojsiejenko and Jack Sheldon – share punting duties. Josjsiejenko is the son of Ralf Mojsiejenko, the former Michigan State star who went on to punt in the NFL for seven-plus seasons. Sheldon is an Australian Rules Football veteran who never played American football before coming to CMU.