Know Your Opponent: Week 2 (Eastern Michigan)

BY CAMERON SURDYK | Ball State Sports Link

Ball State is looking to bounce back against Eastern Michigan after losing a close contest at defending Mid-American Conference Champions Miami last week.

This week’s matchup between the Cardinals and Eagles is Ball State’s home opener at Scheumann Stadium. Sports Link GameDay LIVE starts at 6p, followed by kick at 7 p.m on SL Digital and CBS Sports Network.

Wednesday’s game represents Ball State’s first of five straight against the West Division of the MAC, adding a great amount of significance to the matchup. 

Eastern Michigan also lost its game last week against Kent State, 27-23, so Wednesday night will feature two 0-1 teams looking for vengeance and looking to get its respective seasons on track in a hurry.

The history between these two programs consists of 35 wins for Ball State and 24 wins for Eastern Michigan, with the first meeting taking place in 1936. The Cardinals own a 16-12-2 record against EMU in Muncie.

Ball State head coach Mike Neu recorded his first win as head coach against the Eagles last year after three years of losses to EMU head coach Chris Creighton.

Creighton and his Eagles will be looking to avenge last year’s loss in which Ball State came from behind to beat Eastern late in the fourth quarter behind Drew Plitt and Justin Hall, scoring eight points in the final quarter to take a win back to Muncie, 29-23.

In three career games against Eastern Michigan, Hall has 25 receptions for 266 yards. He has 21 catches over the past two meetings alone.

Plitt completed 23-of-32 passes for 255 yards, hitting Yo’Heinz Tyler and Justin Hall for touchdowns and scoring twice on QB sneaks, the second of which gave Ball State its first lead with 11:36 to play.

A Jordan Williams’ strip sack on the Eagles’ final snap sealed the win after some late tense moments, including a near touchdown catch from Arthur Jackson.

Ball State won 29-23 at Eastern Michigan a year ago.

If Creighton and his Eagles want to leave Muncie with a win, they will have to ride an improved performance from junior quarterback Preston Hutchinson.

Hutchinson sat behind Mike Glass III last year and now has the reins to the Eagles offense in 2020.

The first year starter threw two interceptions against Kent State last week and will likely struggle against Ball State’s star-studded secondary without some major adjustments heading into this week.

Eastern does possess a solid receiving core to help its quarterback, as Dutch national and senior tight end Thomas Odukoya caught two touchdown passes last week while Michigan native Hassan Beydoun had 112 receiving yards.

Beydoun’s nine catches in that game were tied for the most in the MAC in the opening week.

The running game struggled to get going for the Eagles last week, and with how the Ball State defense performed against the run last week, expect Eastern to throw the ball quite a bit.

After an uninspiring performance last week, 2020 is looking more and more like a rebuilding year for Eastern and Ball State must take advantage.

The Eagles defense lost four starters from a defense that was already dreadful last season, as it ranked 99th in the country.

The 2019 Eastern Michigan defense allowed 430 yards and 31 points per game and the 2020 defense is not looking much better.

Last week, it allowed 27 points and 431 total yards to a Kent State team that is not nearly as talented offensively as Ball State is. 

Expect Ball State to score with ease, but it could be in for a shootout at the Scheu if the defense does not improve from last week.