BY MASON PLUMMER | Lead Writer | Ball State Sports Link
In a must-win game for the Cardinals, Ball State came out and dominated from start to finish Saturday.
Ball State took down the Chippewas 45-20 and it was never really in doubt from the opening whistle. The only real question was by how many points BSU would win by — a great problem to have if you are Ball State head coach Mike Neu.
“What a great win for our guys,” Neu said. “On the road, playing against a very good Central Michigan football team and a head coach who has done a great job with this program. In the locker room after the Toledo game, we talked about being more detailed and that was a point of emphasis for us here today.”
Ball State ran its winning streak to four games and has now won six of its past seven visits to Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Cardinals’ quarterback Drew Plitt has progressively gotten better as the season has continued and Saturday was no different.
The third-year starter was 26-of-43 passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 14 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“I know what he wants to get accomplished here and he wants to leave a mark on this program,” Neu said. “You leave your mark here by being a championship quarterback. Since he stepped foot here as the starting quarterback, he is a competitor and I am so proud of him. He was awesome today with some of the throws he made.”
Plitt’s usual favorite target, Justin Hall, was a bit quiet today for his lofty standard with just seven receptions for 66 yards, but his counterpart Jalen McGaughy shone brightly.
The redshirt freshmen out of Detroit finished the day with three receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Dylan Koch also scored his first career touchdown in the win.
On the other side of the ball, the defense forced clutch turnovers again this week to keep the football in the hands of Plitt and the offense. Interceptions from J.T. Wahee and Brett Anderson came in key moments for Ball State as it largely shut down a talented Central Michigan offense.
Linebacker Brandon Martin led the team in tackles yet again with nine, while also contributing one of the four sacks from a BSU defense which caused major problems for the Chippewas.
The defense held CMU to 215 yards through three quarters while building a 38-14 lead. The Cardinals registered five sacks and four takeaways (two on special teams).
“I’m an old quarterback, but defense wins championships every time,” Neu said. “I’ve been on a team that won a championship because of the defense, and it does not bother me at all to say that. So our guys know that you need championship-level defense. I thought last week and this week we showed some great some great championship defense when we needed it.”
Senior safety Bryce Cosby was a difference-maker as always as the ‘centerfielder’ on defense. He finished with six total tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack on the day as he led the Ball State defense to victory.
“At the beginning of the game, we did not bring a lot of pressure because we wanted to feel out what they were going to do offensively with a backup quarterback in,” Cosby said. “They ended up running just about the same scheme that they had been running this season, so we sent pressure at their quarterback today and it paid off.”
Cosby is not a common name you see on the stat sheet with a sack, but he saw holes in the CMU offense and took his chance to make a big play for the Cardinals defense.
He will need to make big plays next week as well, as with Saturday’s win over Central Michigan, Ball State moved to 4-1 on the season and is set to square off with 4-1 Western Michigan at Scheumann Stadium with a MAC West Championship on the line.
“For our guys, it is a confidence thing,” Neu said. “I think that is one thing that we have worked on is building confidence. We had that tough loss early on but our confidence has built since then. When you win a game like this on the road, our guys believe that we have what it takes to be a championship-level football team.”
Ball State takes on Western Michigan at 12 p.m. Dec. 12. Sports Link GameDay LIVE will take you right up to kick starting at 11 a.m.
It is the Cardinals’ chance to capitalize on the season-long #DOB motto and book its trip to Detroit.