Know Your Opponent Week 2: Penn State

Charlie Desadier

Ball State Sports Link

For the first time in school history, the Ball State Cardinals will hit the gridiron against 11th ranked Penn State in a Saturday afternoon matchup in Happy Valley. 

The Cardinals and Nittany Lions will both enter the faceoff with a clean slate (1-0).

Ball State pulled a 31-21 victory under the lights of Scheumann Stadium in the season opener against Western Illinois while Penn State dubbed the Wisconsin Badgers 16-10 in week one.

Although the defending MAC champs secured their eighth consecutive win, there are questions on whether or not the Cardinals have what it takes to dominate this Big Ten school in front of their electric crowd consisting of over 100,000 fans in the stands.

“This is a great opportunity for us as a program,” Head Coach Mike Neu said following the Cardinals first win of the season. “To go into a place like Penn State with the history and obviously it’s a very talented football team– had a win last week against Wisconsin on the road, [a] very talented roster from top to bottom. Coach Franklin has done a great job with their staff [and] this will be the first time since 2019 where they’ve had a full house at Beaver stadium. One of the biggest challenges you have is certainly trying to do a great job and practice preparing for the noise.”

The last time the Cardinals faced off against a ranked team was in the MAC Championship game where they defeated No. 23 Buffalo going on to win the Arizona Bowl against No. 19 San Jose State.

Ball State currently stands 3-29-1 all time when it comes to match-ups against Big Ten schools, all three of those wins being against the Indiana University Hoosiers.

We are just a day away from Mike Neu’s Cardinals and James Franklin’s Nittany Lions facing off. What does that mean? Expect the unexpected.


Sean Clifford

After a slow start against Wisconsin, Penn State didn’t find its footing until the second half after notching only 43 yards total with a lone first down by the end of the first. But with new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich they were able to make a few adjustments that would aid in carrying out the dub against the Badgers.

Nittany Lions senior QB1, Sean Clifford, went for 247 yards and one touchdown with a 54.5% completion. Count on Clifford to look for his favorite target, Jahan Dotson, who went for 102 yards, 5 receptions, and one touchdown. This won’t come easy with Ball State’s experienced secondary implementing stellar coverage over Dotson and company. 

The Badgers were nearly successful in putting off Penn State’s offense last week up until the fourth quarter when they began to improve their run game. 

Penn State’s offense must expect the opposite of a walk in the park when it comes to the Cardinals secondary and prepare for this defense to apply pressure to Sean Clifford stopping the pass game to Dotson, a wideout who does an amazing job at creating separation.


An important key to be on the lookout for during Saturday’s matchup will be the Cardinals running game vs. Penn State’s front seven.

Linebackers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith lead Penn State’s defense in tackles with Smith totaling 11 and a sack and Smith with eight total tackles. This defense was able to hold off the Badgers to 3.1 rush yards per rush with the Nittany Lions secondary intercepting two passes and a deflecting several more. 

The defensive line will look to lean on defensive tackle, PJ Mustipher, who had 35 tackles in total last season, to aid in stopping Ball States run game led by Will Jones and freshman Carson Steele. Both Jones and Steele found their way in the end zone during week one and combined for nearly 170 yards.

With the Cardinals love for the pass game, it is essential for Penn State to be on the look out for 5th year receiver Justin Hall represented a quintessential piece to the cardinals offensive puzzle going for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Western Illinois.

Penn State’s secondary, arguably one of the most productive in the country, consists of Tariq Castro-Fields, Jaquan Brisker, and Ji’Aiyir Brown— a group that can be unstoppable once they get hot. 

With Ball State’s consistent, impressive pass game, we can expect a competitive performance from this secondary on Saturday.

This is match-up you don’t want to miss! Catch the Ball State vs. Penn State matchup at 3:30 on FS1 this Saturday. 

Author: Charlie Desadier