Ball State, at 1-2, is coming off a 41-31 loss to Florida Atlantic. The Cardinals began the season with a loss to in-state rival Indiana (41-31) before winning at home versus Fordham, 57-29. Offense and points have not been the problem for the Cardinals, as Ball State is averaging 37 points per game.
NC State comes into this game after a 44-27 loss at West Virginia. After two strong wins against East Carolina (34-6) and Western Carolina (41-0), the Wolfpack are looking to get back into the win column. Following the loss to West Virginia, NC State head coach Dave Doeren commented on his team's mindset. "Going back to last week, obviously disappointed, not discouraged. Bunch of very, I would say, upset and mad guys, coaches alike at what we did and what we did not do. And I think that's the biggest thing is looking at any time you have a loss, taking the opportunity to grow and learn from it. And that's what this is for us with our football team. It's a huge, huge learning opportunity."
Doeren, who coached at Northern Illinois from 2011-12 before taking over at NC State, recognizes the challenge Ball State presents to his Wolfpack. "They're getting over 80 plays a game offensively, so the tempo is going to be something we've got to be prepared to play well against," he said. "They're scoring over 30 points a game — 37 points — so a good football game for us to have at home and against a good opponent."
Ball State at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: NC State -19
When Ball State Has the Ball
Ball State junior quarterback Drew Plitt is off to a strong start to the 2019 season, with a 70-plus percent completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. NC State will need to find ways to slow down a Cardinals passing attack that is averaging nearly 40 passes and 300 yards per game. "He (Plitt) knows his progression, he gets the ball to his backs when people are covered and does a nice job," said Doeren. Ball State's leading receiver is senior wide receiver Riley Miller, who is averaging nearly 17 yards per reception on 14 catches in 2019.
When NC State Has the Ball
Sophomore quarterback Matthew McKay, like the entire NC State team, is coming off a disappointing game versus West Virginia. McKay completed fewer than half of his passes, was sacked three times and managed just one touchdown pass. Look for NC State to use more run-pass option against Ball State. "We've had RPOs in all year, and they've been good," Doeren said. "Sometimes we play with tempo, and when you play with tempo, that means you're going to run that play."
NC State is coming into this game angry and embarrassed after a poor showing at West Virginia, and Ball State may be the unfortunate victim of the Wolfpack's surly mood. The Cardinals have the talent to hang with their ACC foe for a half, but look for the Wolfpack to turn up the intensity in the second half with the backing of the home crowd.
Prediction: NC State 42, Ball State 28
(Top photo courtesy of gopack.com)