Kicking It In Kalamazoo: Keys And Trends

By Nick Lawler

Ball State Sports Link

This Saturday, Ball State travels to Kalamazoo to take on the Western Michigan Broncos in their second MAC West matchup of the season. After failing to find the end zone in their first MAC game in a loss to Toledo, the Cardinals have a prime opportunity to bounce back.

In Ball State’s story tale 2020 season, the Cardinals upset WMU to claim the MAC West title. As many of you know, that game ended in an eventful last-ditch effort by the Broncos that took officials awhile to sort out.

Coming off of a huge win against the previously undefeated Army Black Knights, Ball State looks to be back on track. It could not have happened at a better time either, as a win against Western Michigan could set the Cardinals up nicely in the MAC standings.

“We’ve had some battles with them, the last three years especially,” said Head Coach Mike Neu. “It will be a great challenge for us going on the road.”

Keeping Plitt And The Passing Game In Stride

Last week we saw the Drew Plitt of 2020. It took a few weeks to get back into his groove, but it looks like Arizona Bowl MVP Drew Plitt has arrived this season. With two touchdowns against a tough Army defense, Plitt was spreading the ball out to his receivers, converting on third downs, and making all the smart reads.

Once again, the star QB’s best friend will be his receivers. Justin Hall, Jayshon Jackson, and Yo’Heinz Tyler all looked incredible in Ball State’s first dominant air attack of the season.

Against Army, the Cardinal’s utilized all of their WRs strengths, with Hall working in space, Jackson losing defenders on routes, and Tyler making contested catches. To take down the Broncos again, they will need a lot of the same.

Broncos In The Air

This season, Western Michigan returned red hot QB Kaleb Eleby. In 2020, Eleby’s 195.08 passer rating ranked third in FBS, trailing only first round draft picks Mac Jones and Zach Wilson.

This season, Eleby has thrown for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns for the Broncos. While the loss of D’Wayne Eskridge has reduced the number of big plays, Eleby and his weapons have proven to be more than formidable.

The Cardinals’ secondary will have its biggest test yet this Saturday. The Broncos still have dynamic receivers, so AJ Uzodinma and Nic Jones will have to play peak Ball State football to keep them at bay.

Getting The Ground Going

Last week, Ball State opted to use the backfield duo of Will Jones and Carson Steele against the Black Knights. Normally a successful group, the running backs were shut down last Saturday, limited to only 32 yards on 14 carries.

After a brutal run defense showing against Michigan in their season opener, Western Michigan has been rather stout on the ground.

The Cardinals’ ground attack will lead to big plays in the passing game, but they will have to get some momentum going first. If a healthy dose of Jones and Steele can find some running room, this offense is more than capable of carrying Ball State to a win.

Author: Nick Lawler