Continuing our preparation for Ball State this Saturday, we’ll take a look at three Cardinal players UAB will need to keep an eye on.
Riley Neal – QB
Ball State quarterback Riley Neal hasn’t put up the number in his first two years to make him a top quarterback in the MAC, but he certainly has the experience you want at the position. Last year he passed for just 2,541 yards and 13 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also rushed for 540 net yards and eight touchdowns, but has had issues with fumbles. In week one against a Big Ten team in Illinois, Riley threw for 204 yards and rushed for a net of 41 yards. Last year against a Conference USA team in FAU, Riley threw for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for 72 yards and two more touchdowns. UAB can’t allow Neal to put up those kinds of numbers on Saturday if the Blazers want to win.
James Gilbert – RB
Running back James Gilbert is by far the most talented player on the Ball State offense. He rushed for 1,332 yards last year and 12 touchdowns, while making First-Team All MAC. UAB did a good job of bottling up Alabama A&M running back Jordan Bentley last week. As a whole, they limited Alabama A&M to just 45 net yards rushing on 33 attempts. Ball State is most likely going to run the ball close to 40 times, and Gilbert will get close to 20 of those carries. UAB will need to keep him under 100 yards, and prevent him from having any long runs.
Anthony Winbush – DE
Everyone is well aware of the issues of UAB’s offensive line in week one, especially in pass protection. You can be certain that Ball State saw that as well and will be trying to get after the quarterback. Defensive end Anthony Winbush is a preseason First-Team All MAC player for Ball State, and he had a great first week with three sacks against Illinois. Last year Winbush led the Cardinals’ defense with 8.5 sacks. UAB will need to make sure to have an extra blocker on whichever side Winbush lines up at this Saturday.
Ball State also has three players on the offensive line who started all 12 games last year, and another lineman who had six starts last year. UAB will also need to keep an eye on cornerback Marc Walton. He had 11 pass break-ups and three interceptions last year.
The Cardinals are a bit inexperienced up the middle, which is where UAB should try to attack. While the offense hasn’t put up huge numbers in the past, they have a lot of experience coming back this year, and UAB will need to be prepared.