FOOTBALL: Ball State overcomes injuries to defeat Toledo 31-24

The Daily News

Two of the leading offenses in the Mid-American Conference took the field on Saturday in Ball State and Toledo, but it was one defense that made the difference.

A short-handed Ball State unit called on veterans and young players alike to step up. Freshman safety Dae’Shaun Hurley registered 9 tackles in the 31-24 victory over Toledo.

“You want to talk about a gutsy effort,” head coach Pete Lembo said. “For a redshirt freshman who has just played a couple snaps on special teams, a couple snaps in our first handful of games, to come out and play like a veteran today … [I was] so proud of the way [Hurley] handled himself.”

After safety Martez Hester was injured last week, Hurley was thrust into the starting role against an explosive Toledo offense. He said he was just thankful for the opportunity to take the field.

“I just wanted to go out and not do too much,” Hurley said. “I was just going out there and doing my job. Coaches said to trust in the other 10 people around me.”

The defense held Toledo to five first downs in the first half. The Cardinals registered 17 of their own first downs, and outgained the Rockets in total yards 275 to 126.

At the beginning of the third quarter, Ball State held a 17-10 lead. Toledo’s only touchdown had come at the hands of its defense when junior Sylvester scored on a 23-yard fumble recovery.

Even Toledo wide receiver Bernard Reedy, known for his explosive playmaking ability, was held to a scrappy 17 yards in the first half – and just 37 yards on 13 catches in the entire game.

“It was a great plan by Jason Bateman, and the defensive coaches,” Lembo said of Ball State’s scheme.

Lembo said the defense was great in not allowing plays to get behind them. Toledo utilized screen passes often throughout the game, so keeping gains minimal was critical.

The Cardinals were able to make three tackles for loss as they contained not only the pass, but the running game as well. Coming into the game running back David Fluellen was fourth in the country with 497 yards on the ground.

He was able to gain 129 yards on 27 carries in Saturday’s game, but he also gave up a momentum-shifting fumble on a red zone carry. Ball State’s defense allowed 415 total yards, 289 of them coming after halftime.

Toledo tied the game at 17 with a 9-play, 80-yard drive started in the third quarter and ended on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The defense went on to hold Toledo on a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts in the final quarter. The latter of the two was just another chance for Hurley to play like a veteran.

He defended receiver Alonzo Russell – who had 147 yards on the day – as he went up for a catch that would give Toledo a first down in scoring range.

He matched Russell step-for-step in coverage. Hurley kept Russell from coming down with the catch, like any veteran would, and gave Ball State its second MAC victory of the season.

“I feel I did pretty good, but at the same time I still have a lot of things I need to work on,” Hurley said. “I’m just thankful the coaches gave me a chance, and even put me out there.”


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