“This is the type of stage that you dream about,” Mike Neu said. “You dream about playing in atmospheres like this.”
After a 44-14 loss to Kentucky in week one, Ball State travels down to Athens, to play the No. 1 team in the nation, the University of Georgia.
Ball State’s 8th-year head coach is looking at the positives of the Cardinals' 30-point loss to the Wildcats instead of the negatives coming into their matchup with the Bulldogs. While reflecting on last week in Lexington, Neu said he wishes the Cardinals could get the second quarter back, the quarter where the Wildcats put up 20 points off two turnovers.
Neu is focused on limiting those turnovers, what he calls self-inflicted wounds. Even with the negatives, Neu said he did see a good amount of positives on the field.
One of those positives came with the interception in the second quarter from redshirt senior defensive back Tyler ‘Red’ Potts. Even after his performance, Potts is still focused on trying to lead the defense as a whole to force more turnovers.
“There's always something to work on,” Potts said. “It's definitely something to build off of, I'm actually excited for our group.”
Potts said the defensive backs are focused on the details and getting ready to take each play one at a time.
“We're not necessarily looking at it as if we're the little guy walking into the big man's campus,” Potts said. “It's just four quarters of playing ball.”
Neu said the Bulldogs speak for themselves, they are incredibly talented and possess the top talent in the nation.
“What's more impressive to me when I turn on the tape is to see the effort that they play with for four quarters,” Neu said. “The effort and the consistency are awesome for four quarters. I love that when every play is over, they get right back up.”
Without having ever met head coach Kirby Smart, Neu said he has the utmost respect for how his team plays. As far as naming a starting quarterback, Neu said he is not worried. Rather, he is focused on going back to work and focusing on the task of preparing for Georgia as a whole.
Neu said no matter what happens, viewers can expect to see freshman Kadin Semonza, graduate student Layne Hatcher and redshirt sophomore Kiael Kelly each on the field at some point.
From a wide receiver perspective, junior Ty Robinson is not worried about what quarterback is at the helm.
The University of Colorado transfer said he is encouraged after his first outing with Ball State, picking up 90 yards and a touchdown in his first start for the Cardinals.
The production of Robinson was all from Semonza, who also had a big day in his first start with 165 yards and one touchdown.
For things the offense can do better, Robinson is looking for the unit to pick up the pace a little bit, especially against a Southeastern Conference (SEC) opponent.
“I'm blessed to have this experience and get to line up and play the defending champions, but at the end of the day, it's just a football game,” Robinson said.
Neu said the physicality of SEC football is just a little bit different with the high level of competition, but both Potts and Robinson had the same answer to how that physicality affects their bodies.
“It’s just bumps and bruises.”
As far as injuries go for the Cardinals, redshirt junior defensive end Tavion Woodard has been fully participating in practices and is expected to play on Saturday. Sophomore tight end Brady Hunt is going to be out again with an ankle injury, but is out of his walking boot and just started working on the sideline. Redshirt sophomore running back Vaughn Pemberton (knee, ankle) and graduate student linebacker Clayton Coll (ankle) are out indefinitely.
Despite this, Neu said team mentality has been high going into Athens.
“If you're competitive, what more can you want than an opportunity to go play on this stage against a team like this,” Neu said.
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