BY CONNOR ONION | Radio Voice of Ball State Football on WCRD 91.3 FM
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Bounce Back Week
Week one of the Mid-American Conference season had high expectations for both Central Michigan and Ball State.
Ball State (3-2, 0-1) had the opportunity to defeat Northern Illinois for the first time since 2008.
Central Michigan (3-2, 0-1) was presented the possibility of knocking off an undefeated Western Michigan program in front of 33,000 fans at home.
Neither happened. Now what?
“For our guys that feel like they’re secure with who they are and their responsibilities and playing time will not change, we have to be sure to stress competition,” Ball State Head Coach Mike Neu said.
Central Michigan’s leader, John Bonamego had a similar message.
“You can’t mope around and feel sorry for yourself,” the second-year head coach said. “You have to use that frustration and pain and be able to channel it in a positive way.”
With both teams feeling the sting of losses against rivals, a compelling matchup occurs Saturday.
Can Ball State stop the pass after allowing Northern Illinois’ Anthony Maddie to throw for 300 yards?
It won’t be easy against the MAC’s active leader in passing yards, Cooper Rush.
For Central Michigan, can they keep their gunslinger on his feet?
An offensive line without a senior allowed Western Michigan to drag down the quarterback eight times last week. Ball State ranks seventh in the nation in sacks, dropping opposing quarterbacks 18 times through five games.
“Watching that tape, we know it’s going to be a physical battle for four quarters,” Neu stated.
One team will erase last week’s memories while the other will be 0-2.
Chippewas in the NFL
With a pro-style offense and a 4-3 defensive alignment, Central Michigan has been a warm up for many current NFL players.
Eleven former Central Michgan players are scattered across current NFL rosters, including two who will be in attendance on Saturday.
Eric Fisher, 2013 No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, will be the Grand Marshal of this weekend’s Homecoming parade. Fisher played at Central Michigan from 2009-2012 and made his first career start against Ball State as a freshman.
Fisher – presently with the Chiefs – will be joined Saturday by fellow NFL teammate and CMU alum Frank Zombo in Mount Pleasant.
Zombo went undrafted in 2010, but latched on with the Packers for their Super Bowl XLV victory over Central Michigan alum Antonio Brown’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Zombo will serve as the Chippewas honorary captain against Ball State.
Injury Bug for Central Michigan
Central Michigan has been ravaged by injuries in the past two weeks. Five key position players on offense are out for Saturday’s game against Ball State.
The most glaring of the five is wide receiver Jesse Kroll.
Kroll, the team’s leading receiver last year, suffered a torn ACL two weeks ago in a loss at Virginia.
The senior has been involved in the two most iconic plays in recent Central Michigan history.
On the defensive side, interceptions leader Amari Coleman was seen in practice this week with a walking boot. Coleman is a big reason Central Michigan leads the MAC with six interceptions.
Wide receivers Eric Cooper and Johnny Carson,and running backs Jonathan Ward and Romeo Ross, are also expected to miss Saturday’s game.