Ball State freshman Yo’Heinz Tyler makes his first catch, and touchdown, of his career against Central Connecticut State. (ESPN+ screenshot)
Ball State suplexed FCS foe Central Connecticut 42-6 to open up the 2018 season, which is a promising sign. Sure, the FBS team should always beat the FCS team. But it’s not like Ball State’s vulnerable to losing in these games. Even with this win, Ball State’s now 9-6 since 2000 against FCS schools, but at least there hasn’t been any since 2014.
The game showed a lot of explosion on offense and plenty of promise on defense. Take it all with a grain of salt when you consider the opponent, but the Cardinals had 652 yards of offense, which is a new school record, and held Central Connecticut to zero points for the first 59 minutes and 48 seconds of the game.
- With 84 plays ran and 652 offensive yards gained, the Cardinals averaged 7.8 yards per play, and was brought back 70 yards via six penalties.
- The old school record for most yards in a game was 612 in a 1977 game against Cal Poly Ponoma, which is currently a Division II program.
- Ball State was 11 of 16 on third downs and 4 of 6 in red zone appearances.
- Ball State didn’t win the time of possession stat line at 29:22, but CCSU also held onto the ball for 11-plus minutes in the fourth quarter to eventually score its first touchdown.
- Neal had only seven incompletions in this game: at least two should’ve been caught and one should’ve been an easy touchdown to Justin Hall of all people. On the drive with the dropped touchdown, Ball State ended up punting the ball away.
- Neal’s final line: 23-for-30 (76.67 percent) for 259 yards (8.63 yards per attempt) with three total touchdowns (two pass, one rush). Drew Plitt was 5 of 6 for 77 yards and a score.
- Promising to see: Neal’s first touchdown pass was a 20-yard strike to tight end Nolan Givan. Neal’s pass was zip-lined to Givan near the right sideline which was really impressive to see.
- James Gilbert picked up 100 rushing yards on 14 carries — no negative plays — for this to be the eighth 100-yard performance of his career and the first time since 2016.
- Gilbert, Malik Dunner and Neal all recording rushing touchdowns.
- The four running backs — Gilbert, Caleb Huntley, Dunner and Markice Hurt — had a combined 263 rushing yards on 37 carries (7.11 yards per attempt) with two scores.
- Freshman wide receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler made the most of his late playing time with a 20-yard touchdown catch from Neal in the third quarter, then a 63-yard touchdown grab from Plitt. Those were Tyler’s only two receptions of the game and led the team with 83 receiving yards.
- Of course, Hall led the team with five receptions.
- With much credit to an offensive line with a lot of returning faces, the Cardinal offense had only two negative plays all night.
- Jeremiah Jackson led Ball State with seven total tackles with a half of a tackle for loss.
- The only sack to come out of Ball State’s defense came from linebacker Jacob White.
- Six players on the Ball State defense recorded at least a half tackle for loss for CCSU to lose a total of 11 yards.
- Ball State’s defense limited CCSU to an average of 4.4 yards per play and 4-for-15 on third downs.
Again, take it all with a grain of salt when the Week 1 opponent comes from the FCS, but Ball State put on a clinic in the home opener, which is good time. Ball State was too banged up to enjoy football games last season, so this was a good change of pace for them.
How much of this is worth buying into? The running backs did what they’re expected to do, Neal’s throws were on a line and, by all accounts, very accurate. The defense made a few plays in the backfield and there were plenty of underclassmen that saw the field on both sides of the ball.