Ball State's cornerback Marc Walton attempts to tackle Western Michigan's wide receiver Corey Davis during the game on Nov. 1 at Scheumann Stadium. Davis finished with 12 catches, 272 receiving yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals in the Broncos' 52-20 victory. Grace Ramey // DN
Corey Davis, No. 17 Western Michigan hand Ball State 52-20 loss
They knew it was coming. They even had a few extra days to prepare for it. But it was impossible to stop Nov. 1.
That “it” factor was Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis. The senior dominated Ball State (4-5, 1-4 MAC) once again, hauling in 12 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-20 road victory for the No. 17 Western Michigan (9-0, 5-0 MAC).
Davis finished his career against Ball State with 33 catches for 692 yards and eight touchdowns. Many wide receivers around the country would probably love to put up those kind of numbers — but in a season, not just four games.
Ball State: Final Stats
Rushing yards: 298
Passing yards: 199
Total yards: 497
Total yards allowed: 554
Third-down efficiency: 6-17
“He’s good,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “Obviously you’ve gotta pick your poison there. They’ve got a good running game, they’re No. 1 in the conference for a reason. You’ve gotta try to limit big plays down field to a guy like Corey, and you also know you’ve gotta have hats to the ball.”
To be fair, Davis has terrorized many of the opponents he’s played throughout his career, not just Ball State.
Just look at the numbers: he broke the Mid-American Conference and Western Michigan single-game receiving yardage record Tuesday, and now stands in second place in FBS history with 4,789 career yards to go along with 47 touchdowns.
He’s got the size (6-foot-3, 215 lbs.) to go up and get it, like he did on a highlight-reel grab down the right sideline over safety Corey Hall in the second quarter, and the speed to outrun the defense, exhibited by his 62-yard catch and run on the first play of the second half.
With a veteran quarterback like Zach Terrell throwing it around (23-34, 367 yards, three touchdowns) and a two-headed monster out of the backfield, it wasn’t hard to see why the Broncos are one of the nation’s top offenses.
“If you have a couple extra days to prepare, obviously you don’t wanna get blown out,” senior linebacker Aaron Taylor said. “I just feel like there were a couple plays out there we could’ve made. Let up some big plays, and that led to the result.”
Is Corey Davis human?— Brian Kaufman (@BrianKaufmanTV) November 2, 2016
B) Absolutely Not pic.twitter.com/GvQdEVnVua
As lopsided as the final score was, the first half actually wasn’t as bad as you might think. Ball State gained 497 yards of total offense in the game, but three turnovers made the difference as the Cardinals went into the locker room down 28-10.
Redshirt junior Jack Milas got the start at quarterback in place of sophomore Riley Neal, who was out with a knee injury. He finished 20-38 for 199 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown on the opening drive) in his first start of the season.
“I thought he had a better week of practice than what he showed today,” Neu said. “He made some of those throws he missed early in the game, starting with the first play. … We just simply didn’t execute the way we did in practice.”
Sophomore running back James Gilbert crossed the 1,000-yard plateau for the season on a four-yard carry in the first quarter, and finished the first half with 139 yards. Freshman Malik Dunner also played a key role in the running game, as he burst up the middle for Ball State's first score of the game on a 50-yard run.
The Cardinals were forced to go away from Gilbert in the second half, however, due to Western Michigan’s rapidly increasing lead.
“It’s just a situation in the game,” Gilbert said. “Obviously we wanna run, we’re good at running the ball. But if you put us in a situation where we gotta throw the ball, we gotta make the plays down the field.”
Ball State just couldn’t make enough plays to keep up with Western Michigan, who is the last undefeated Group of Five school in the country.
But it wasn’t too long ago when many of these same Western Michigan’s players, like stud wideout Corey Davis, were on the roster when the program finished 1-11 in 2013.
Just look at where it is now.
“That’s the first thing I told our guys in the locker room after the game,” Neu said. “The reason they’re where they’re at is yes, they have good football players, but they don’t make mistakes. They don’t beat themselves. And we’re gonna get there.”