Ball State Bowl Week is presented by Northwest Bank
December 24, 2021
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Ball State and Georgia State are set to kick off the 2021 TaxAct Camellia Bowl Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT/2:30 p.m. ET inside the Cramton Bowl. The Cardinals (6-6, 4-4 Mid-American Conference) are prepared for a four-quarter battle with a formidable foe in Georgia State (7-5, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference).
“We’re facing a great opponent in Georgia State,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “I have a ton of respect for them when I turn on the tape with how they play the game. Physicality, effort, toughness – they have all that. They have fun playing, and you can see that when you turn on the tape. I tip my hat to Coach (Shawn) Elliott for the unbelievable job he’s done. I have a lot of respect for the way they play the game.”
The Panthers, winners of six of their last seven games, are eighth in the country in rushing (224.5 yards per game) and set a school record with 84 tackles-for-loss.
The Cardinals have won five of their last eight, including a 20-3 triumph over Buffalo just over a month ago to secure bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season, something that had been done just twice before in program history.
Ball State is making its 11th bowl appearance all-time and is coming off of winning the 2020 Offerpad Arizona Bowl, securing the Cardinals’ first-ever bowl win.
Serving as the only college football game played this year on Christmas Day, the TaxAct Camellia Bowl has been decided by a total of 32 points in its first seven installments. All seven games have been decided in the fourth quarter, with three games decided on the final play.
“We’re going to give it everything we have,” Neu added. “We came down here with one goal in mind, and that’s to get a win. We’re excited to be here, we’re excited to be part of the Camellia Bowl and we’re excited as a program to be taking another step in a positive direction.”
The game is set to be broadcast on the Ball State Gainbridge Radio Network and Sirius XM channel 380 with the duo of Joel Godett and Rich Spisak on the call. ESPN will televise the contest with Roy Philpott, Hutson Mason and Abby Labar describing the action.
Inside the Series: Georgia State
Ball State and Georgia State are slated to meet on the gridiron for the third time in series history. Both teams won on the other’s home field with nearly identical scores: 31-19 Ball State in 2015 and 31-21 Georgia State in 2016.
In addition, the matchup carries some significance to head coach Mike Neu as Georgia State was his first opponent as the leader of his alma mater Sept. 2, 2016, which was a 31-21 victory in favor of the Cardinals.
Coach Neu on Georgia State…
“You’re going to get their best shot in all three phases. They make you earn it. They don’t give up very many big plays. They tackle well. They’re physical. They’re extremely disruptive up front. Offensively, they get the run game established at a high level week in and week out, but they also throw the ball when they need to. They’ve got a quarterback who can hurt you both ways. They’re just a well-coached football team. When you go out there, you better be ready for a 60-minute battle.”
Winning the Turnover Battle
After beginning the year minus-5 in turnover margin through first four games, Ball State has been plus-14 since then with only three turnovers across the last eight games. In the first four games, the Cardinals were outscored 31-0 in points off turnovers. In the past six games, Ball State has scored 55 points off turnovers while allowing only 14.
Something Special about the Special Teams
Under the guidance of Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator Patrick Dougherty, Ball State has produced the best special teams unit in the country, according to Coaches By The Numbers. The Cardinals boast a special teams efficiency rating of 79.2, which leads the country. Alabama is next at 76.4, followed by Michigan (75.3), Ohio State (74.6) and Stanford (73.2).
Ball State is second in the nation in kickoff return efficiency at 80.0. The Cardinals are first in the MAC in net kickoff yards (46.5) and blocked punts (three) and are second in the conference in net punt average (41.0) and punt return average (11.3).
COURTESY BALL STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS