DN PHOTO DAVID POLASKI
FOOTBALL: Ball State loses in dramatic fashion at Iowa
The Ball State football team was less than three minutes away from another win against a school in a power conference during the Pete Lembo era.
Less than three minutes away from being 3-0 against the Big Ten over the last four seasons.
Less than three minutes away from a potential momentum-churning win to start the 2014 season.
Ball State fell 17-13 to Iowa Saturday afternoon, at Kinnick Stadium. After holding Iowa to just three points throughout the game, the defense surrendered two 12-yard touchdown passes from Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock in the closing minutes.
The first was with just 2:52 remaining. The second, one minute.
“We got a little tired. We weren’t able to get a good pass rush there late,” Lembo said. “Those two scores were the result of technique issues and some mental issues there. I expect more out of our guys.”
The teams battled to a standstill to start the game, neither team scoring through the first quarter. A bad exchange during an Iowa handoff was scooped up by Ball State’s Blake Dueitt, who ran with a convoy of blockers 35 yards to give his team a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
After Dueitt’s touchdown, Rudock responded with a 53-yard pass to get Iowa into the redzone. A field goal would cut Ball State’s lead to 7-3.
Ball State’s defense contained the Iowa offense, stuffing the run throughout.
“We had them in third and long a lot,” Ball State linebacker Zack Ryan said. “In the end, they got us in the passing game and it came down to missed assignments.”
Coming out of halftime, Ball State would tack on a field goal to extend its lead to 10-3, and the special teams forced a fumble and recovered on the ensuing kickoff. Again, the Ball State offense stalled, forcing another field goal from kicker Scott Secor.
Ball State’s offense struggled throughout. The team finished with just 90 rushing yards on 36 attempts and quarterback Ozzie Mann completed just 50 percent of his passes, throwing for 129 yards.
“They were stacking the box,” Ball State running back Jahwan Edwards said. “We were able to get three or four yards a carry, but it wasn’t enough.”
With time running out, Iowa marched downfield and Rudock fired his first of two touchdown passes, cutting the lead to just 3.
After two unsuccessful runs to the left and two Iowa timeouts, Lembo had a decision. Run again on third and long and keep the clock running, or let Mann pass, risking stopping the clock but hoping to pick up the first down.
Mann’s pass fell incomplete, stopping the clock and allowing Iowa to seize all momentum.
“You’re thinking ‘I have to put this thing in the air and continue to be aggressive and take a chance, even though the potential to stop the clock is there,’” Lembo said.
The Hawkeyes quickly passed downfield, taking advantage of a tired Ball State defensive line. Rudock finished 33-52 for 322 yards and two touchdowns.
The final one being the backbreaker, as he found Jake Duzey for 12 yards, slithering into the endzone as Kinnick Stadium erupted.
Ball State would have one final push, but Mann was hit and fumbled, recovered by Iowa, ending any comeback chance.
“There were times at Ball State where this would have been a moral victory,” Lembo said. “That’s not going to happen. We’ve got to find a way to win these games.”