Watch tonight’s game between Ball State (1-1, 1-1 MAC) and Northern Illinois (0-2, 0-2 MAC) at Gainbridge Field at Scheumann Stadium on Wednesday night. ESPNews will provide the live television coverage and WatchESPN.com will carry the streaming action.
Per Mid-American Conference COVID-19 regulations, no general public attendance or tailgating will be permitted this season. Attendance is permitted only for limited guests of players, coaches and band and spirit team members, up to 500 students, and suite holders in a limited capacity.
The Ball State football team is no stranger to close games, a truth made even more clear by the first two outcomes this season.
An opening loss at Miami decided with 10 seconds left. A home win over Eastern Michigan decided with 6 seconds left. Both by the same 38-31 score.
In fact, if you go back to the beginning of MAC play last season, seven of the Cardinals’ past 10 games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
The first game in that stretch was a 27-20 victory at Northern Illinois in the 2019 MAC opener, as Ball State reclaimed the Bronze Stalk trophy for the first time since 2008. The rivals will meet again Wednesday, this time in Muncie.
Last year’s matchup saw the Cardinals trail by two touchdowns, just like they did in last week’s comeback win over EMU. BSU won both games in somewhat similar fashion, riding Caleb Huntley and the offensive line.
“Just our resilience and our ability to bounce back,” Huntley said of what stood out in last year’s win. “We were down and then just clicked and got out of there with a W.”
Huntley carried a career-high 35 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the rain that afternoon, and the Ball State defense created three second-half takeaways. That game set Huntley on a stretch that has seen him reach 100 yards rushing in nine of his past 10 games, including his career-best 204-yard effort last week.
This year, Ball State will look to defend the Bronze Stalk against a Northern Illinois team hungry for its first win. The Huskies drew a challenging schedule right out of the gate, facing both division favorites from the MAC’s preseason media poll in Buffalo and Central Michigan.
The Cardinals know they still have some catching up to do when it comes to the recent history of this series.
“There’s no way to overlook Northern Illinois; I don’t care what’s happened the past two games,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “That was our first win last year in 10 tries. There’s nothing really that needs to be said to our football team other than that.
“It’s going to be a battle. (NIU) played tough in both of those games against Buffalo and Central Michigan. We’re going to have to go out and execute at a high level because it’s going to be another tough matchup here, and the Bronze Stalk trophy is at stake. It’s really important to our guys and our program that we put two games together in regard to that. We want to keep that trophy here.”
Ball State (1-1, 1-1 MAC) vs. Northern Illinois (0-2, 0-2 MAC)
Wednesday, Nov. 18 (7:02 p.m. kickoff)
Muncie, Ind. (Gainbridge Field at Scheumann Stadium)
Watch: ESPNews | Listen: 104.1 WLBC | Live Stats
Social: @BallStateFB, @BallStateSports, #ChirpChirp, #WeFly, #DOB, #MACtion
Game Notes: Ball State (PDF) | Northern Illinois (PDF) | Game Week Press Conference