By: Charlie Desadier
Ball State Sports Link
The Cardinals are fresh off of their bye-week and back on the road where they will face the Akron Zips at InfoCision Stadium.
Ball State enters week eight at 4-4 while the Zips stand 2-6. The match will be one of four consecutive midweek games to close out the regular season for the Cardinals.
Head coach Mike Neu felt that the bye-week couldn’t have come at a better time with the Cardinals heading into the final stretch of their 2021 campaign:
“As we think about the final stretch of the season, I think to be able to take a step back is big. A lot of guys have been playing banged up and delivered some really gritty performances,” Neu explained. “I’m proud of a lot of our guys for that because they’ve been taping it up or sucking it up trying to get themselves to the end of the week and make sure they’re as healthy as they can be for the game. It does come at a good time. Any time you can get one is a good time, but certainly after you’ve played eight games and transition into what would be the final stretch of the season and all the midweek games now. We definitely took advantage of that.”
Neu wasn’t the only one that felt the team needed a reset before heading into week eight. Many players including junior defensive lineman, Justen Ramsey, thought a break was necessary after the loss to Miami and knowing many players who have gotten “banged up” during the first half of the season:
“A couple guys were getting banged up and we were kind of feeling the mid season grind a little break. Even if it’s not a long break, a couple days or even a couple hours help in any way,” Ramsey said.
“After a loss like that, that one really hurt but, you know, it’s football. You gone lose some, you gone win some. At the end of the day you just gotta keep moving forward cause the season keeps moving forward, time doesn’t really stop for anybody.”
With the Cardinals looking to redeem themselves on the road after a homecoming upset, we can anticipate an eventful matchup as Ball State holds a 6-5 record in the series against Akron.
For this Cardinal’s team to leave Akron with a dub, they must know their opponent.
The Cardinals and Zips are neck and neck as it pertains to yardage (333.9), however the Zips struggle with scoring offensively. Akron ranks 117 nationally in scoring averaging 19.9 points per game.
With QB1 Kato Nelson out due to an injury, Akron may depend on DJ Irons to suit up as he has appeared in six of the eight games this season with a 65.3% completion rate. Irons is a lead rusher for the team with 300 yards on 90 carries however, backup QB Zach Gibson, who has played the last two games for Akron has had the best passing numbers with six touchdowns and a 69% completion rate.
The Zips are currently ranked 115 and 126 among the FBS in total and scoring defense. Akron has given up 449 yards and 39 points per game.
Expect Cardinals Drew Plitt to depend heavily on his go-to weapons Justin Hall, Yo’Heinz Tyler, and Jayshon Jackson who all rank among the top 20 in Mid-American Conference football when it comes to catches.
Akrons defense has allowed teams to average 217 yards and 21 touchdowns so far this season.
Kickoff starts today at 7 p.m ET on CBSSN.