#3DC Blog: Three Questions Heading Into Saturday’s EMU Game

Written By: Noah Reed | @NoahReed_24
Host of 3rd Down Chirp GameDay
Member of Ball State Sports Link

12022364_1133958799964916_6265209862641638105_oBall State suffered a 56-23 setback against the Aggies of Texas A&M last Saturday night. It was the first ever meeting between the programs and the first time the Cardinals played an SEC opponent since 2009 when Ball State traveled to Auburn University.

Texas A&M (2-0) wasted no time getting into the end zone. The Aggies only took 2:36 off the clock in order take a 7-0 lead over the Cardinals. Ball State (1-1) was quick to answer back with a Morgan Hagee 21-yard field goal that was set up largely in part by Darian Green. The sophomore running back had back-to-back runs that totaled 74 yards on the opening drive.

After only five minutes of play, Texas A&M held a 7-3 advantage. After the Hagee field goal, the Aggies rattled off six straight touchdowns and headed into the half with a 49-3 advantage.

“The numbers don’t lie,” head coach Pete Lembo said after the game. “It was a disappointing loss… but I do think we settled down a little at halftime, and I was pleased with how the guys came out and played in the second half.”

Just one week after throwing for 338 yards, Sophomore quarterback Jack Milas struggled to find a rhythm in front of the 104,000+ fans at the newly renovated Kyle Field. Milas completed just one of his eight pass attempts for five yards and a pick six.

Former Yorktown High School quarterback Riley Neal made his collegiate debut and replaced Milas after just a quarter and a half of play. Neal, a true freshman, threw for 116 yards on 11/19 passing.

Granted, the Texas A&M starters were on the bench for most of the second half and some of them even the entire half, but half number two was quite the contrast from half number one. After being dominated 49-3 in the first 30 minutes, the Cardinals won the second half battle 20-7. Ball State scored on their first drive on a Darian Green six-yard scamper with 11:38 remaining in the third quarter.

On Texas A&M’s ensuing possession, sophomore Defensive end, Anthony Winbush, forced a fumble and recovered it deep in Aggie’s territory. The Cardinals would capitalize on the turnover, turning it into a 43-yard Hagee field goal. Ball State’s final score of the night half way through the 4th quarter with a one-yard James Gilbert touchdown run.

After the game, Lembo added, “The biggest thing is we learned more about our football team… hopefully we can put it all together next week as we open up conference play.”

Noah’s 3 Questions Heading Into MAC Play

  1. How far does the QB situation go?

12017651_1133959269964869_6830939163371090970_oFirst off, should we even be talking about this? I understand Riley Neal was very impressive in his collegiate debut as a true freshman, but are we forgetting who Jack Milas had to face in the first quarter and half last Saturday? Milas, as a sophomore who only had only started seven games previously to Saturday night, went up against a first string SEC defense that unquestionably has multiple NFL drafts picks on it in the coming years.

Looking at the stat sheet, there’s no question that Milas didn’t perform to his potential. With that being said, was it really him or was it more of the quality of defense he was playing? Milas has had and will continue to have ups and downs. That is expected out of a quarterback who has had limited experience like Milas has.

I’m not by any means trying to take away from what Neal did in his first career game, but by the time he was inserted into the game, he was facing Texas A&M’s second and third string defense. Then again, some would say that a second string SEC defense is better than a starting MAC defense. And while I can agree with that point, the fact still remains that Milas played a first string SEC defense; should we really have expected very much out of him?

I do believe we see both quarterbacks get some snaps Saturday at Eastern Michigan, but I would extremely surprised if it wasn’t at least 70% of the snaps given to Milas. Unless of course, he thoroughly under performs.

  1. Can Eastern Michigan’s defense contain the Ball State run game?

Looking at the first two weeks of the season, it would seem Ball State has every imaginable advantage. But, that’s why the game isn’t played on paper. One big question mark heading into the 2015 season was “How can Ball State replace Jahwan Edwards, the school’s all-time leading rusher?”

12022408_1133961206631342_4348450669677985579_oAfter week one, the question seemed to be answered. It was going to be a collaborative team effort and not just one guy taking a bulk of the carries. Coach Lembo even alluded to it in his press conference leading up the VMI game two weeks ago.

The Cardinals rushing attack was more than impressive in week 1, rushing for 231 yards and totaling five touchdowns. A week later, they only seemed to improve upon their opening week effort. The Cardinals rushed for 252 yards and two scores against an SEC defense in Texas A&M. Darian Green totaled 74 of his team high 99 yards in just two carries on Ball State’s opening drive. Freshman James Gilbert contains to make a statement after scoring a touchdown and running for 71 yards on just 11 attempts.

As if the Cardinal’s run game wasn’t already hard enough to stop, they travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan to battle an Eastern Michigan team that gives up nearly 330 yards rushing per game. That puts them 129th out of 130 FBS teams, only ahead of UMASS. When 330 yards seems like a lot, just know they gave up 430 alone in the team’s win at Wyoming last weekend. Ball State’s 235 yards rushing per game puts them 30th in the NCAA. Seems like a very favorable matchup for offensive coordinator Joey Lynch and his crew.

  1. Does Eastern Michigan have a QB controversy of their own?

Redshirt Sophomore, Reginald Bell, was given the starting nod at quarterback heading into week 1 this year, but it was short lived. Because of injury late in EMU’s loss to Old Dominion, Bell was forced to the bench.

Another redshirt sophomore, Brogan Roback, was handed over the reigns after Bell’s injury. Roback, even though he is technically a back up, has started a fair share of games in his three years with the Eagles.

Saturday was a career day for Roback. He threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns while completing 17 of his 24 pass attempts. On the season, that gives Roback 411 yards through the air, completing nearly 66% of his passes.

Eastern Michigan’s situation is much less of a “controversy” since it was all created because of an injury, but it will be interesting to see what they decide to do if Bell is available to play Saturday against the Cardinals. Do you go with Bell, who has been your teams’ started for two years now, or do you go with the man who has the hot hand coming off the best performance of his career?

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Author: Chris Taylor

Senior Director of Ball State Sports Link & Digital Sports Production | Lecturer of Telecommunications | 2019 Dean's Faculty Award Winner | 2017 Recipient of SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award | Storyteller | Producer | Emmy Award Winner | Sports Media Junkie | Social Media Strategist | Certified Bob Ross® Instructor | Country Music Enthusiast | Goldendoodle Owner | Follow me on Twitter @BallStateCT

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