Cards hopes fall after defeat

DEKALB, ILL -- It was exactly what Ball State didn't want-turnovers.

In a game with three interceptions thrown by Cardinal quarterback Talmadge Hill, Ball State was defeated in a pivitol Mid-American Conference West game in DeKalb, Ill., Saturday. Final score, Northern Illinois 33 Ball State 29.

With 3:01 remaining in the contest it was a 13-yard boot-run by Northern Illinois' quarterback Chris Finlen that clinched the win for the Huskies. That touchdown also destroyed all chances of Ball State winning a MAC West championship outright. With Saturday's loss, Ball State was also stripped of any chance of hosting a MAC championship game.

"It was an exciting football game, I give a lot of credit to Northern," Ball State coach Bill Lynch said. "They really made the plays when they had to down the stretch."

Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak agreed with Lynch in saying that it was a good game.

"That was a great college football game, it really was," Novak said. "I do have to say, I have a lot of respect for Ball State and Bill Lynch. It was a great game that could have gone either way."

Even with the loss, Novak admitted that his team is nothing out of the ordinary but just found ways to make plays on Ball State at the right times.

"We are not a great football team," Novak said. "We are not a mature, veteran group, but they play their butts off. There were times when Ball State dominated the line of scrimmage, but we found a way to make plays."

Despite the loss, Ball State remains in the running for a co-MAC West championship. In order to achieve such a title, the Cardinals must defeat Western Michigan in the final contest of the season next Saturday.

"We have a chance to tie Northern Illinois for the West division title," Lynch said. "We don't feel very good right now, but by Monday we are going to be ready to go; and we are going to go to Western and try to get that co-championship."

As far as Saturday's game went, it was the turnovers that hurt Ball State the most. On Wednesday of last week, Lynch explained how important it was to cut down on the number of turnovers his team had been committing.

"It goes without saying that, if we expect to have success Saturday, we can't turn the ball over," Lynch said Wednesday.

Ball State was far from cutting down on turnovers with Hill's three interceptions, one of which was returned for a 56-yard touchdown by Northern's Lionel Hickenbottom.

"Turnovers have hurt us in the past," Lynch said. "Turnovers hurt us today particularly when you turn it over for a score. That makes it very difficult."

"It's been the story of our seasons," Lynch said. "We have breakdowns, and we turn the ball over; and it has really cost us."

Despite the three interceptions, Lynch felt that Hill threw a good game finishing the contest with 274 yards on 25 completed passes.

"I thought Talmadge Hill played a gutty game," Lynch said. "You can talk about turnovers, but we threw the ball downfield; and I think he played a good game."

Amidst the turnovers, Ball State's bright spot for the game was when Corey Parchman returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. With that return, Parchman jumped to the No. 2 kickoff returner in the nation.

Tailback Marcus Merriweather continued with his 100-yard plus game streak with 165 yards rushing on the day. The junior carried the ball 28 times and ran it into the endzone for two touchdowns on the afternoon. Merriweather's farthest run of the day was 35 yards. According to Lynch, it wasn't until one hour before the game that the Ball State coaching staff decided to start Merriweather. Lynch said he had not practiced all week do to a "bum" knee.


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