Conference play begins with loss

Bill Lynch and his Ball State Cardinals began their Mid-American Conference schedule with a loss Saturday, but Lynch firmly believes that an 0-1 start does not assure a bad conference season.

"I learned a long time ago if you jump out in front and increase your lead from there, that's the best way to play," the Ball State head coach said. "But if you don't, you find a way to win it."

Ball State is no stranger to losing the MAC opener. The Cardinals have lost the conference opener in each of the previous five seasons. This season, however, the conference opener was also a MAC West game.

"You feel bad tonight, get up tomorrow morning, take a shower, go to work and tomorrow night we'll be ready to play Toledo," Lynch said. "That's the way it is. Nobody's gonna feel sorry for themselves because that doesn't get anything done. Anybody in this room feel sorry for me?"

The Cardinals have not defeated the Huskies in the past three seasons, including last year when Northern Illinois ended chances of becoming the outright champions of the MAC West for the Cardinals, something Lynch did not stress prior to the game.

"I liked the way we played the football game until the last four minutes of the game," Lynch said. "In terms of playing hard, we're not going to be perfect every game."

The Cardinals were not perfect against the Huskies Saturday losing the turnover battle 4-2; one coming at a key time of the game after scoring on the first two drives after the half.

"It's a great to get a road win in this league," said Joe Novak, Northern Illinois head coach. "I thought at half time we were sitting pretty good, then boom boom they scored two just like that and we're reeling."

Ball State continued to drive down the field, but a key interception ended scoring chances, and would be the last time the Cardinals were as close to the end zone.

A pass thrown to the sideline was read and intercepted by Huskie junior cornerback Randee Drew. It was the second of four interceptions junior quarterback Talmadge Hill threw on the day. The turnover was also the last opportunity the Cardinals had to score.

The Cards next drive was three and out, but Northern Illinois struck again on the punt. Junior punter Reggie Hodges booted a 40-yard punt to Northern's Dan Sheldon. Sheldon found a seem and returned the punt 65 yards for a touchdown making the final score of 41-29.

"Turnovers and the kicking game are usually the determining factor," Lynch said. "You've got two really good tailbacks, they're both going to play real good. All that is going to even itself out and both teams are going to play hard. (Northern) certainly won the turnover battle, and they won the kicking battle."

For the past two seasons, the Cardinals came back the next game after losing the conference opener, to win its next game. The team will return to the road Saturday when the face West rivals Toledo.

"At this point, looking back saying 'this could of happened, that could of happened,' doesn't make it any better, so we're gonna move on," Lynch said.


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