FACTS & STATS: Site: Scheumann Stadium (22,500) — Muncie, Indiana.
Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: Northern Illinois 3-1, Ball State 2-2. Away
Record: Northern Illinois 3-1, Ball State 1-3. Neutral Record: Northern
Illinois 0-0, Ball State 0-0. Conference Record: Northern Illinois 3-1, Ball
State 2-2. Series Record: Ball State leads, 20-19-2.
GAME NOTES: Following a five-game losing streak, the Ball State Cardinals have
won back-to-back games for the first time all season, and will seek their
third straight win as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies in a Mid-
American Conference battle at Scheumann Stadium.
Northern Illinois knows a thing or two about win streaks. The Huskies have won
two in a row and three of their last four, all one year after going unbeaten
in regular season play. With a 3-1 mark in conference play, NIU will try to
force its way up to challenge Western Michigan and Toledo in the West
Ball State is in the same division as the Huskies, and hasn’t had as much
success in conference play, although the Cardinals have won two MAC games in a
row. With a win this weekend, they’ll close some distance with the top of
As a series, not many could be more contentious than the one between Northern
Illinois and Ball State. The Cardinals hold the ever-so-slim 20-19-2 lead over
NIU, but the Huskies have a 10-9 advantage on the road in Muncie.
The Huskies put some separation between themselves and Eastern Michigan in the
first quarter of their latest outing on Oct. 25, but surrendered the lead late
in the game. That didn’t phase Northern Illinois, however, as the Huskies
reclaimed the advantage with a pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns for
the 28-17 win. The running game, per usual, was on point.
NIU amassed 332 rushing yards in the game with four scores on the ground.
Quarterback Drew Hare led the squad with 166 yards and a touchdown, while Joel
Bouagnon (one) and Cameron Stingily (two) each notched rushing scores. It’s
been a point of emphasis for Northern Illinois this season, as the Huskies
average 269.4 rushing ypg.
The team’s offense has been working well, and is averaging 31.6 ppg through
eight contests. Hare has moved into the quarterback slot one year after Jordan
Lynch was a Heisman finalist, and has performed well with five rushing
touchdowns and 11 passing, against just one interception. His 581 rushing
yards is a Northern Illinois best this year.
On several occasions this season, the NIU defense has failed to come through
and contain opponents’ scoring, although sometimes it doesn’t matter with such
a strong offense. The team allowed 17 points to a struggling EIU offense, and
41 points in a shootout win against Miami-Ohio. Ball State’s offense is
starting to come alive as well, so a defense averaging 26.2 ppg allowed to
opponents this season seems a bit shaky.
Safety Marlon Moore leads the Huskies with 59 tackles this season, and has
forced a team high-tying two fumbles. He and defensive lineman Jason Meehan
(8.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four quarterback hurries) have been the
staples to this defense. But with just seven turnovers gained this season,
Northern Illinois ranks in a tie for 117th in the FBS in the category.
After taking down a very hot Central Michigan team several weeks ago, the
Cardinals turned around and demolished Akron on Oct. 25, 35-21, after scoring
29 unanswered points for the win. Kicker Scott Secor was on fire in the win,
connecting on field goals of 46, 20, 23, 37 and 26 yards in victory. Secor has
been a large part of the Ball State offense in the past few weeks, but so has
star running back Jahwan Edwards.
Edwards had yet another strong performance with 121 yards and a touchdown
against the Zips. On the season, Edwards has rushed for 828 yards and eight
touchdowns through eight games played. He’s the largest cog in a Ball State
offense that averages 152.1 rushing ypg, and has scored over 30 points in each
of the team’s last three contests.
Since taking over for regular starting quarterback Ozzie Mann, Jack Milas has
been extremely productive for Ball State, and has ultimately led the team to
consecutive wins. In three starts, Milas has thrown for 749 yards, five
touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s guided the team to a 26.9 ppg mark and
has helped cut down on costly turnovers.
At the start of the 2014 season, the Ball State offense was at a standstill,
which didn’t help out the cause on the defensive side of the ball. The team’s
first two losses were by a touchdown, and next three defeats were by no more
than 11 points. So the Cardinals have never been out of any game they’ve
played, but the defense’s 26.6 ppg allowed average has been just enough to
turn potential wins into losses.
Linebacker Ben Ingle has separated himself from the rest of the pack on
defense for Ball State, having racked up 71 total tackles this season. He’s
shown up other places around the stat sheet, but he hasn’t been as successful
at getting to the opposing quarterback as lineman Darnell Smith, who has 4.5
tackles for loss and a team-best three sacks. The Cardinals as a whole have
been pretty quiet in the opponents’ backfield, owning only seven sacks and 10
quarterback hurries through nine games played.
Ball State’s record may not reflect the competitiveness the team has shown
this season, but Northern Illinois certainly won’t overlook the hot streak
Ball State is on heading into Wednesday night’s matchup. Playing in Muncie
hasn’t mattered much to NIU in the past, and with a strong rushing attack that
can counter BSU’s, the Huskies should improve their record after this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 34, Ball State 30