BY NATHAN GANGER | Ball State Sports Link
After a gut-wrenching 38-31 loss at Miami in the Red Bird Rivalry, Ball State (0-1) faces off against Eastern Michigan (0-1) at Gainbridge Field at Scheumann Stadium.
Sports Link GameDay LIVE starts at 6p, followed by kick at 7 p.m on SL Digital and CBS Sports Network.
With both sides potentially facing an 0-2 start in MAC play, this game is a must win for both teams. Here’s what to watch for in Wednesday’s matchup against Eastern Michigan.
Can the offensive line protect quarterback Drew Plitt?
Ball State’s offensive line gave up six sacks and seven tackles for loss against Miami. Lonnie Phelps and Dominique Robinson both had two sacks for the Redhawks against Ball State’s offensive line.
The offense still had a good day with over 300 passing yards and 130 rushing yards, but the offensive line needs to clean up the mistakes.
If Plitt has time to find his talented receivers, he can have a great day against Eastern.
Will the offense take advantage of EMU’s poor run defense?
Last week at Kent State, Eastern Michigan gave up 212 rushing yards. Those yards were split up between four running backs, but definitely expect an extra heavy dose of Caleb Huntley in this ballgame.
The senior ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns in Ball State’s loss to Miami. Dating back to last season, Huntley has nine touchdowns over his last five games and also has rushed for over 100 yards in eight out of his last nine games.
Can the BSU defense stop the bleeding?
The same problems from last season’s defense occurred in last week’s game at Miami — the inability to slow down the run and not getting off the field consistently.
Ball State’s defense gave up touchdowns on four of six drives in the second half and watched a 21-10 third quarter lead be wiped away in an instant. Ball State allowed Miami to accumulate 422 total yards of offense last week, 134 rushing yards and 288 passing yards.
Once backup quarterback AJ Mayer came in the game, Miami receiver Jack Sorenson got going and Ball State had no answer. Going up against an Eastern Michigan offense that had just 61 rushing yards last week, this is a prime opportunity for the Cardinal defense to gain some momentum.
Can Ball State finish late in games?
Closing out games was a problem last year for Ball State and it was a problem last week, so until Ball State can prove they can finish in the fourth quarter, this will continue to be something to watch.
Ball State tied Miami at 31 in the fourth quarter and had the football on a potential game-winning drive, but it ended in an interception that led to Miami’s late touchdown that sealed the game.
If Ball State wants to get to Detroit and play in the MAC Championship, it has to finish in the fourth quarter. Staring down a potential 0-2 start in MAC play, it’s critical that Ball State turns the tides this Wednesday vs Eastern Michigan.