By: Nick Lawler
Ball State Sports Link
After dropping their 2021 MAC opener against Toledo last weekend, Ball State now has the opportunity to take on Army at home this Saturday. Riding a lowly three game losing streak, the Cardinals will look to get back on track against the red hot Black Knights.
Army, coming off of a win against fellow MAC residents, the Miami Redhawks, has started the season 4-0. Along the way, the Black Knights have stayed true to their roots, running the football the whole way.
In their six previous matchups, Ball State and Army have split the victories down the middle, each earning three. The Cardinals have grabbed two of the last three however, with both wins coming at Scheumann Stadium.
Head Coach Mike Neu believes that the largest challenge of this weekend’s matchup is making sure his players understand what is being asked of them, “but our guys certainly embrace the challenge, and it’s a great opportunity to compete against a program like Army.”
Stay Disciplined Against the Discipline
Army will certainly be one of the most disciplined teams in the country once again this weekend. While that applies mostly to penalties and on-field actions, it also stands for how they play their game.
Army’s synchronized triple-option offense has stood the test of time, and in order to stop it, or at least contain it, Ball State will need to display the same level of discipline that makes the service academies dangerous.
Cardinals’ senior linebacker Jaylin Thomas believes his team has to “just take it one play at a time, that’s one team. That’s our identity as a team, one play at a time, one at a time, and it’s going to truly show in this game.”
Keeping a Balanced Offense
Unlike the Black Knights’ almost entirely run-heavy offense, Ball State has had an extremely balanced offense thus far. However, the Cardinals have had spurts where they lean too heavy on one element or the other.
In doing so, they typically get predictable on offense, and start to play conservative. With a bevy of weapons available in both the running and passing games, this offense has the chance to really explode if utilized correctly.
The backfield duo of Will Jones and Carson Steele had some tough sledding last weekend, combining for only 32 yards on 20 carries. If they can set the pace on the ground against the Knights, then Ball State’s passing game will open up, and playmakers like Justin Hall, Yo’Heinz Tyler, and Jayshon Jackson can break this one open.
Dominate the Trenches
While Army does have some larger lineman available, they will be smaller across the board. Because of this, Ball State has an opportunity to disrupt the run game and get Army off schedule early, they will have a golden opportunity.
As mentioned before, the Black Knights rarely pass the football. In fact, the squad has only attempted 18 all season long. It is awfully hard to come back from a sizable deficit without a semblance of a passing game. The Cardinals will have to mitigate their offense via the trenches and build a lead early.