Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Ball State QB Riley Neal, RB James Gilbert


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Ball State quarterback Riley Neal (left) and running back James Gilbert (right) pose for a portrait on June 24 at Mid-American Conference Media Day.

Central Michigan Life's Evan Petzold spoke with Ball State quarterback Riley Neal and running back James Gilbert to preview Central Michigan's 3 p.m. Oct. 13 game against the Cardinals at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant.

Ball State finished with a 2-10 (0-8, Mid-American Conference) record in 2017. The last time Ball State played CMU was Oct. 21, 2017. The Chippewas won the game on the road, 56-9.

The Cardinals are 2-4 to start 2018 after losing 24-16 to Northern Illinois in Week 6. Ball State has lost to Notre Dame, Indiana, Western Kentucky and the Huskies. 

Throughout the 2018 season, Neal has completed 147-of-255 passes for 1,501 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. In 2017, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound quarterback played the first three games of the season before going down with an injury. 

Gilbert, as a 5-foot-9, 198-pound running back, only played in the first three games last season before he was injured for the final nine. Without Neal and Gilbert, the Cardinals lost all of those nine games.

This season, Gilbert has 92 carries for 421 yards and five touchdowns. He posted two scores in Ball State's 52-24 victory against Kent State on Sept. 29.

Neal and Gilbert discuss preparing for a physical Central Michigan team in this exclusive Q&A.

Riley Neal

Central Michigan Life: What do you know about Central Michigan?

“Typically, they are a good team. It’s just another in-conference game.”

What do you remember from last year's 56-9 loss to the Chippewas?

“I was injured last year, so the only thing I remember is Shane Morris.”

Since CMU brought in many new starters and are off to a 1-5 start, do you prepare for them different this time around?

“They are going to bring in new guys every year. They don’t just bring in guys that are scrubs to fill talent. They have talented guys.”

James Gilbert

Central Michigan Life: What do you remember from past games against CMU?

“I played against them a couple of times now. Central Michigan is always a big, physical, hard-hitting team. The last time playing them was for their homecoming game in 2016. They are just a big physical team.”

Are you happy that you no longer have to deal with Joe Ostman on the defensive line?

“It doesn’t matter who the guy is. I like competition, so if you’re a good player, I want to go hit you. If Joe was still here, I’d cut him.”

Is the contest against CMU more special in comparison to the average game?

“It’s a special game to us. We always play all four quarters and there’s never a blowout. I’m looking forward to the game.”

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