LINCOLN, Neb - Already in his young career Ball State sophomore quarterback Nate Davis has developed a reputation for producing memorable performances when playing on the national stage.
After Ball State fell behind 31-12 at the University of Michigan his freshman year, Davis led the Cardinals on two second-half touchdown drives. Playing in front of more than 100,000 fans clad in maize and blue, Davis finished with 250 passing yards and one touchdown.
This season, in the biggest win of his career at the Naval Academy, Davis finished with 277 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also led the offense on a nine-play, 69-yard drive to tie the game at 31 with 3:24 remaining in regulation.
In perhaps Davis' best game in a Cardinals' uniform, the sophomore completed 26 of 43 passes for a career-high 422 yards and three touchdowns at Nebraska, leading his team within a point of the biggest win in program history. However, it was the one negative play he made - an interception to Nebraska linebacker Bo Ruud that was returned 34 yards for a late Cornhusker touchdown - that Davis focused on first after the game.
"That was a dumb decision that changed the game," Davis said. "I should've thrown it away, but I didn't. You just have to learn from your mistakes."
Despite the interception, which Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said shifted momentum to his team, Davis had plenty of positives for fans to focus on. His performance at Memorial Stadium Saturday was another step in the progression Davis has made as a quarterback. Davis' 422 passing yards was the third-most in program history, and his three touchdown passes were two away from tying the program record.
Davis is also on par to break many single-season records by the end of his sophomore year.
As a true freshman, Davis tied the school record for single-season passing touchdowns with 18. Through four games of his second season, Davis has 11 passing touchdowns, which ties for 16th in the nation. Last year, Davis' 4,550 passing yards was the fourth-most in program history. Through this year four games, Davis has compiled 1,203, which is the 11th-most in the country and tops in the Mid-American Conference.
Callahan said he expected the type of production Davis had against his Husker defense.
"He showed a lot of poise coming in here, but it's nothing we didn't [expect]," Callahan said. "[Davis] is dangerous, and [he] can make plays out of the pocket because he does have vision. He did that today."
Ball State coach Brady Hoke said he had to view the game film before he could make an accurate assessment of Davis' performance. However, Hoke also said he was pleased with the production he received from his second-year quarterback.
"He played his heart out," Hoke said. "At the same time, you don't say, 'good job' until after you study the game tape and make decisions on what you see. But I thought he gave the best effort that he had today."
After having a career day, Davis said he won't spend time dwelling on what happened in Lincoln. Instead, he said his focus will immediately shift to the next defense on Ball State's schedule.
"[I felt] good, but when it all comes down to it, we lost," Davis said. "This game is behind us now. We lost and now we have to prepare for next week."