Defense plays best game of season

Cards allow season-low 109 rushing yards, force five fumbles in victory.

Until midway through the second quarter of Saturday's homecoming game, the Ball State defense had been struggling like it has most of this season.

But one play helped turn the unit's performance, and spurred the Cardinals defense to play its best statistical game of the year, a key in BSU's 42-17 win over Eastern Michigan.

With the score tied at 14-14, junior cornerback Jesse Avant recovered a fumble by Eagle backup running back Anthony Sherrell, who was attempting to dive over his offensive line for a touchdown. Avant snatched the ball in the end zone and ran it out to the 19 yard line.

When the Eagles finally did score again on Eric Klaban's 24-yard field goal with 13:09 left in the game, Ball State had built a 42-14 advantage. In between, the Eagles gained a meager 12 yards.

"I thought the defense really played well from that point on," head coach Bill Lynch said, referring to the Avant's fumble recovery. "In the second half it did (well) and got some turnovers. The kids played pretty well and I'm proud of them. It was a week coming off the Toledo game (where the Rockets recorded 518 yards on offense), but they came back, practiced hard and got prepared."

Overall, the 17 points yielded was a season-low. The 330 yards given up was not as low as the 315 given up to Northern Illinois, but 86 of those yards came in the fourth quarter - after the game was all but decided. With the Eagles missing star running back Ime Akpan, the Cardinals allowed just 109 rushing yards, 79 less than their season average.

Ball State also forced five Eagle fumbles, recovering three of them. Plus Greg Pagnard, Keith Anderson and Nick Graymire all recorded sacks.

Pagnard, a junior nose tackle, agreed that the fumble provided a lift for the Cards.

"I think it changed the game to our favor and gave us the momentum," he said. "It was a big confidence-booster and after that we knew we could stop them if we made plays. At halftime we got everything straightened out."


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