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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 05, 2017 1:00 am

Zips' comeback last season still haunts Cardinals

Elizabeth Wyman | For The Journal Gazette

Ball State vs. Akron

Where: InfoCision Stadium, Akron, Ohio

When: 3:35 p.m. Saturday


MUNCIE – As the Ball State football team tries to shake off the effects of last week's 55-3 loss to Western Michigan and looks ahead to this week's game against Akron, it's confronted with the sour memories of last year's matchup between the Cardinals and Zips.

The Cardinals got off to a booming start by putting up 267 yards in the first half, possessing the ball for 20 minutes and building a 17-7 lead. But the Zips began the second half with three straight touchdown drives, ultimately winning 35-25.

“They're a good football team,” Ball State coach Mike Neu said on his weekly Facebook live interview. “We found that out a year ago. First half of the game last year we controlled the clock, we controlled most of the game. We ran the ball very effectively, and in the second half that script got flipped on us.”

Memories aside, the teams have one thing in common – injuries.

For Akron (2-3, MAC 1-0), redshirt senior running back Warren Ball went down last weekend in the team's win against Bowling Green. He will miss the remainder of the season with a broken ankle.

Neu said he knows that while Ball went down, the Zips aren't lacking in talent at running back.

Junior Van Edwards and senior Manny Morgan have proven they're both more than capable in carrying the load the remainder of the season.

“They're quick guys, and I think you see that on tape right away,” Neu said. “They may be undersized, but they're explosive and they can make you miss in the open filed.”

For Ball State (2-3, MAC 0-1), injuries are plentiful. Most notably is junior quarterback Riley Neal who will be missing his third straight game with a leg injury. Redshirt senior quarterback, Jack Milas, will again start in place for him.

Cardinals offensive coordinator coach Joey Lynch said he is proud of the way his backup quarterback has handled bouncing back from last week's loss.

“That's what he brings to the table as a fifth-year senior,” Lynch said. “He's kind of been through the highs and lows and he's just come to play. I think with a young football team right now that's really important.”

Junior running back James Gilbert and senior wide receiver Jordan Hogue are still battling hand and back injuries and are questionable for this weekend. The one bright spot is the likely return of redshirt senior offensive lineman, and captain, Vinnie Palazeti.

“He's been though it all,” Lynch said. “Him being a fifth year senior, he just brings a physical presence and a calming presence that we need right now on offense.”

The Cardinals will once again need heavy production from freshman wide receiver Justin Hall. Leading the team in receiving yards with 431, Hall also leads the nation in receiving yards for a freshman.

Lynch is confident in his team's ability to bounce back from last week and get its first conference win this weekend.

“On any given Saturday any team can win,” Lynch said. “You got to play your best football. Unfortunately, we didn't do that last week, but looking forward to getting number two in the MAC.”