Ball State defeated fellow MAC West contender 31-24 in front of a big crowd in the
Homecoming Family Weekend Game yesterday, if the Cardinals can get past the Northern Illinois game with a win then they will control their own destiny in terms of winning the MAC West for the first time since Brady Hoke’s final season. It wasn’t always pretty as the Cardinals built their lead and then held off the Rockets, the Cardinals fumbled three times, losing two, and Keith Wenning threw an interception. The defense really stepped up against one of the best offenses in the MAC and was able force two turnovers of their own in the game and held off Toledo during their comeback attempt.
Ball State got the ball to start the game and promptly marched 75 yards in eight plays to punch it in on a Jahwan Edwards two-yard touchdown run. Ball State is the only school in FBS to score a touchdown on its opening drive in all five games; East Carolina has opened its games with a touchdown four times while Baylor has done so in all three games they have played. Toledo got on the board with a 45-yard field goal by Jeremiah Detmer on their second drive; their first drive stalled out after a personal foul on Bernard Reedy turned what would have been a 3rd and 3 into a 3rd and 19. On Ball State’s next possession, Toledo defensive end Jayrone Elliott hit Keith Wenning and forced a fumble, which was scooped up and run back for a touchdown by Junior Sylvestre to give Toledo a 10-7 lead. Ball State tied the game up at 10-10 on a Scott Secor 23-yard field goal in the final moments of the first quarter.
Ball State again marched down the field on their first possession of the second quarter, this time on an eight play, 73-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown run by Edwards. The score remained 17-10 in Ball State’s favor through the rest of the second quarter and all of the third quarter as the defense did a great job of stifling the Toledo offense while Toledo’s defense successfully tightened up to prevent any further damage.
To make up for almost two entire quarters without a score, the teams combined to score 14 points apiece in the fourth quarter in a display of MACtion at it’s finest. Toledo scored first on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell in the opening seconds of the final quarter to tie the game, Ball State countered with a seven yard touchdown run by Keith Wenning to retake the lead at 24-17. The defense was able to come up big and stop Toledo on downs on their next possession and the Cardinals took over looking to kill as much time on the clock and put the game away. Unfortunately, Keith Wenning was picked off and that led to Toledo tying the game again on a David Fluellen touchdown with just over six minutes left in the game. Ball State was able to maintain its composure and marched down the field to retake the lead for good on Jahwan Edward’s final touchdown of the day. The defense was able to get one last stop and Ball State ran out the clock for the win.
Keith Wenning threw for 335 yards but was held without a touchdown pass, he was also sacked twice. Jahwan Edwards rushed for 89 yards and the three touchdowns, he now trails Marcus Merriweather by two touchdowns for most rushing touchdowns in a career. Horactio Banks added another 50 yards on the ground on ten attempts, Wenning rushed for the one touchdown. Willie Snead led the Cardinals with 131 receiving yards; Ball State almost had three wide receivers crack the century mark as Jamill Smith had 11 catches for 99 yards and Jordan Williams made six receptions for 92 yards.
I’ll have more on the defense later, but they played very well and for the most part limited big plays by keeping Toledo’s skills players in front of them. Brian Jones led the Cardinals with 13 tackles as he continues to have a strong junior season, Ben Ingle had 13 tackles, and Dae’Shaun Hurley did a great job of filling in for the injured Martez Hester and finished with a career-high nine tackles. Kenneth Lee has been slowed this season by a MCL injury, but stepped up huge today with eight tackles, a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and he collected Ball State’s one interception of the day.
One final thing to close out this recap, I just want to thank Ball State’s fans for turning out in such strong numbers yesterday. It was the biggest crowd since the 2008 season finale, Ball State had a very large group of commits and recruiting targets at yesterday’s game and they got to see how much the school and its fans care about its football team. Hopefully this wasn’t a one game fluke in attendance due to it being
Homecoming Family Weekend and Ball State can consistently draw 18,000+ fans for the remainder of the season. This is a team that deserves consistently high attendance and enthusiasm from its fans; who knows, if Ball State can draw over 18,000 fans the rest of the season maybe that will help inspire Coach Lembo to stick around for another year or two.