Sophomore Ball State cornerback Marc Walton covers Toledo wide receiver Jon’Vea Johnson, with some help from thick fog. The Cardinals lost 37-19 and were eliminated from bowl contention. Colin Grylls//DN
Dense fog limits visibility in Ball State football loss to Toledo
Eyes strained to see across the field, the ball almost disappearing when a pass or punt lifted it into the fog.
It was as if the crowd of 16,826 all exhaled at once in the cold air. But the fog was so thick, the plumes of breath just blended in.
Head coach Mike Neu downplayed the weather in Ball State's 37-19 loss at Toledo.
Riley Neal: 260 passing yards, 85 rushing yards, 2 passing TD
Damon Hazelton Jr.: 12 catches, 102 yards, 1 rushing TD
Sean Wiggins: 14 tackles (12 solo), 2 tackles for loss
"The issue with play-calling more than any is down the field — can the receivers track the ball down the field?" Neu said. "Obviously in the return game it makes it tough on the punt returner, the kick returner to locate the ball. But I was proud of our guys not letting this become a problem."
In the box score, the passing numbers were still there. Sophomore quarterback Riley Neal threw for 260 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Toledo junior Logan Woodside passed for 325 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
But a lot of those yards came after the catch, like when Toledo senior running back Kareem Hunt took a swing pass near the line of scrimmage for a 71-yard touchdown.
Leading the Cardinals with 12 receptions and 102 yards, freshman wide receiver Damon Hazelton Jr.'s longest reception was for just 15 yards.
"This is crazy," Hazelton said. "I've never played in an environment like this before. The fog was crazy, it was definitely crazy, but I just did my best to track the ball."
Hazelton also scored a touchdown with 3:46 left in the game. He lined up split to the left, standing near the numbers with the ball on Toledo's 11 yard-line. He ran a fade route to the end zone and jumped to catch a back-shoulder throw from Neal.
Ball State went for the two-point conversion, and Hazelton ran the same route. He didn't come down with it, but Neu said the 6-foot-2 receiver is well-suited for those plays.
"He's earned the trust of the quarterback in that situation," Neu said. "Damon's one of those guys that you see that in practice from him every day, so you have the confidence to call that in the game."
On defense, the Cardinals had a tough time as well. Toledo added 179 rushing yards to its passing total for 504 offensive yards.
Senior linebacker Sean Wiggins led Ball State with 14 tackles and added two for a loss.
"This is bad," senior linebacker Sean Wiggins said. "I mean, you turn around and you can't see the bleachers and see anybody. So it's hard for everybody, I'm sure it's harder for wide receivers and cornerbacks. Linebacker it's kind of easy, you just tackle the guy with the football. But looking to the sidelines and stuff, it was a little difficult.
The view from the bleachers, however, was a little different. Though he's not a Ball State student or alumnus, Zach Prokes, 21, drove down to from Michigan to watch his friend, sophomore offensive lineman Alex Joss.
"It's a little tough to see up here," Prokes said. "I imagine it's tougher to see the ball for the players, but we've been able to watch him — unless they get to the opposite sideline."
But not one of the 16,826 people in the stands could do anything to get rid of the fog, and neither could anyone on the field.
"It's one of those things you have to deal with," Neu said. "Nobody can see this coming, but it certainly made this a unique night to say the least."