Look, we've got three months of no IU athletics, so let's take this time to preview the Hoosiers' opponents for this upcoming football season. Each week until the season, we'll be going through the opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. This week: Ball State.
Game 2: Ball State Cardinals
Last year's record: 3-9
2015 Final F/+ Ranking: 110
Head Coach: Mike Neu
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
When: September 10, Noon, ESPNEWS
1. Not these guys again
The first ever game I went to at Memorial Stadium was in 2012 against Ball State. It was a night game, so after a long afternoon on the tailgate fields, I was pretty hyped up to see a 2-0 Hoosier squad take on their in-state opponents. After a neck-and-neck first half, Indiana's offense went blank in the third quarter while the Doug Mallory defense let the Cardinals take a 38-25 lead. I was convinced the Hoosiers were done.
Then, into the game came true freshman and third-string QB Nate Sudfeld. He showed the flashes of greatness that night that eventually led to him being an NFL Draft pick, leading the Hoosiers on a fourth-quarter comeback and giving the team a 39-38 lead after a Shane Wynn touchdown with 49 seconds left. Unfortunately, this fantastic comeback was all for naught a few minutes later, when the Cardinals hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired to get the victory.
The 2012 game was the third loss in a row for Indiana against Ball State, and the two have not played since. In 2011, Indiana opened Kevin Wilson's tenure in Lucas Oil Stadium against Ball State, a game in which the Cardinals won 27-20. When the two faced off in 2008, a brutal career-ending injury to Ball State WR Dante Love overshadowed the game itself, but the Cardinals, who were led by Brady Hoke at the time, still easily defeated the Hoosiers. Thus, it's been almost 9 years since IU has beaten the Cardinals. And while the series has mostly been inactive, it's been long enough.
2. A brand Neu coach
Pete Lembo had a moderately successful tenure at Ball State, going 33-29 and reaching two bowl games. However, the team had dropped off in the past two seasons, and the Cardinals finished 3-9 last year. Rather than stay in Muncie, Lembo took an assistant job with Maryland. On the surface, going from a MAC head coach job to an assistant for a 3-9 B1G team seems like a step back, but Lembo was on the hot seat, and the Under Armour money in College Park will make sure that he's well compensated for his new role.
To replace Lembo, Ball State brought in a guy with familiarity to the school and the area. Mike Neu, an Indy native and Ball State alum, takes over the job after two years as QB coach for the New Orleans Saints. Based on experience and connections alone, it was a well thought-out hire. Being an alum and Hoosier native will help, and his connections to Drew Brees - who still is a big deal in certain parts of Indiana - shouldn't hurt either. Neu's previous head coaching experience was in Arena Football a decade ago, where he was moderately successful. But this job is definitely a rebuild, and in a competitive conference like the MAC, it may take him a few years to find his footing.
3. Let's hear from our readers
We asked you guys what you thought of Ball State. One reader tweeted "Jason Whitlock," who I totally forgot went to Ball State and makes me want the Hoosiers to win this game even more, but that tweet has since been deleted.
Let's hear what else you said:
@crimsonquarry Whatever you do, don't call them the Scarlet Cardinals or something; you'll never hear the end of it. #goldenpanthers— Carey D. York (@careyyork) June 10, 2016
Okay, so I got some FIU fans mad online last time because I called their team the Golden Panthers instead of the Panthers. But I will not be correcting that article. I will never log off.
@crimsonquarry their 3 decent bars (D-Lux, Dill St, Cleos) were put out of business bc students flocked to the new Brothers.— IU Bonko (@ElBonko) June 10, 2016
I've never been to Muncie so I can't verify this. But the Brothers in Bloomington, at least, is fine. $2 beers from a huge draft selection on Thursday nights is pretty good, and the second floor deck is great in the summer. I watched a lot of World Cup there in 2014. Not a bad place to catch up with friends or watch a game.
@crimsonquarry they suck but have our number— Mitch Meyer (@mymanmitch23) June 11, 2016
Yep. This sums up Ball State football.
The CQ Summer Preview Series will run every week, focusing on a different 2016 Indiana Football opponent each time. Next up: Wake Forest