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Great afternoon for football, but the Cardinals didn't win

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Ball State University football player Cody Rudy (8), who played high school football for Shenandoah, listens to a coach during last Saturday’s home game against Northern Illinois. Rudy didn’t get into the contest and the Huskies defeated the host Cardinals 24-16.
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The Ball State University Marching Band performs at halftime during last Saturday’s home football game against Northern Illinois at Scheumann Stadium. Halftime shows by the band aren’t seen much anymore on telecasts of college football games.
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Ball State quarterback Riley Neal (15), a product of Yorktown High School, looks for a receiver against Northern Illinois during last Saturday’s football game at Scheumann Stadium. Neal threw for 260 net yards but no touchdowns as the host Cardinals lost to the Huskies 24-16.
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The Ball State University football team races onto the field before the start of last Saturday’s home game at Scheumann Stadium against Northern Illinois. The Cardinals fought hard but lost to the Huskies 24-16.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

One nice thing about being sports editor is that I can get media credentials for almost any sporting event I want to attend. Getting in free, free parking, free food and drink, and getting to sit in an air-conditioned press box on a hot October afternoon are some of the perks.

At this newspaper, local sporting events take precedence, but since there were none Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. I ventured up to Ball State University’s Scheumann Stadium to see the host Cardinals take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in a Mid-American Conference West Division matchup.

It was fall break at BSU and not many students (except band members, cheerleaders, or the Code Red Dancers) were on campus and at the game. I easily got into the reserved lot for media and into the stadium where my camera bag was searched to make sure I wasn’t bringing in any bombs or firearms.

I showed my media pass, was given a program, and was told to pick up a free “spirit towel” that was was available to fans entering the stadium.

This is what I like about BSU. I am an alumnus of both BSU and Indiana University, but you can get some things for free at Ball State. Granted, as a media member I usually get free programs at most sporting events, but when I went to a football game at IU last year, it was charging $5 for a game program.

When I received my M.B.A. degree from IU-Bloomington, it was charging $7.50 for a cover for the diploma, which I didn’t pay for as most colleges (like Ball State) were giving the cover free with the diploma.

And the program at Ball State was a nice one, filled with color pictures and many pages of information.

I went to the elevator and was immediately taken up to the press box with minimal wait. I left New Castle expecting a longer wait to get into the stadium and up to the press box, so I had plenty of time to do what I wanted to do before the game.  

I kind of felt sorry for the Cardinals that more fans weren’t there. It was a warm afternoon with temperatures in the mid 80s and a 15 mph breeze blowing from the south, and there wasn’t much threat of precipitation at the time the game started.

The press box at Ball State was rather quiet, and we media members even had our own spotter for plays occurring on the field as we couldn’t really hear the public address announcer’s call. Although I took down notes of every play like I do for the local high school sporting events I cover, we were given summaries of the game in paper format after every quarter, which was really nice.

I was hoping that Cody Rudy, who starred in football at Shenandoah High School earlier this decade, would get into the game. I did see him in his uniform on the sidelines and took a couple photos from the press box of him, but he didn’t enter the contest as far as I could tell. Rudy is listed as a fullback on the roster.

Another nice thing about attending a college football game in person is that one gets to see things happening on the field before the game and at halftime, things you just don’t see anymore when you watch a college game on TV.

There were plenty of media timeouts and, of course, the BSU band and I think some high school bands performed at halftime. Those young people also work hard at their craft and deserve some recognition and attention.

I remember when college TV telecasts used to show the halftime performances put on by the bands, but no more. Now that time is used for reporting scores and highlights of other college games and more yakking about what transpired in the first half and what to look for in the second half.

Sometimes change isn’t for the better.

As for the game itself, at least the Cardinals didn’t lose to the Huskies 63-17 like they did in DeKalb last year. The game was rather close and kind of went down to the wire.

One problem for Ball State was that when it got into the red zone, it settled for field goals while Northern Illinois usually got touchdowns when it got into the red zone.

One thing I did get to see was Cardinal placekicker Morgan Hagee kick a 51-yard field goal, which was his career-longest boot for three points.

Ball State lost yardage on a fourth-and-one play in Huskies territory late in the contest and gave up the football. They got it back in the waning minutes, but had to resort to a “Hail Mary” pass play on the last play of the game, and the pigskin fell to the turf incomplete as the clock expired, so BSU lost 24-16.

It’s too bad that Ball State, which played so well in a 24-16 loss at still undefeated Notre Dame back in September, now sits at just 2-4 and needs four more victories to become bowl-eligible. Four of the Cardinals’ final six games are on the road.

Skies darkened as the game came to a conclusion and fans were warned that severe weather was in the area, but none materialized. Another nice thing about Saturday was that it was very easy (and quick) to zip out of the parking lot onto McGalliard Rd. and head back to New Castle.

I contrast that to last year’s Ohio State at IU football game I attended. Even leaving at the start of the fourth quarter (after the Buckeyes had more or less sealed the win), it took an hour and 45 minutes to get out of Bloomington itself because of all the blocked off streets. Ridiculous!

I’ll be back at another BSU football game, perhaps as soon as Oct. 20 when I have some time to kill between sessions of the Trojan volleyball team’s regional appearance at Norwell High School.

As a side note, I watched much of last night’s NFL game between New Orleans and Washington when Saints quarterback Drew Brees surpassed first Brett Favre and then Peyton Manning to become the all-time NFL leader in total passing yards.

Even though Brees played college football at Purdue and I’m an IU alum and fan, I always kind of liked watching him play. He was deemed too short and didn’t throw the proper type of pass when being evaluated as a potential NFL quarterback, yet here he is at the top.

I guess good guys can finish first.

David Risley is sports editor at The Courier-Times.