Ball State finishes season 10-3 with loss
Ball State is now 0-7 in bowl games
Potential game-tying field goal was blocked as time expired
It was a chance to send the veterans out in style, but with one play, it turned into a stinging defeat.
With just two seconds left on the clock, a 38-yard field goal by Ball State kicker Scott Secor would have sent the game into overtime. Instead, it was blocked by Arkansas State.
As the football fell to the turf, so did the team’s chance to make history. The same group that carried the Cardinals to bowl eligibility in three consecutive seasons was faced with the reality of not winning a single one.
“Nothing is going to take the sting away from this one — knowing you had your chances to win on multiple occasions,” head coach Pete Lembo said.
One missed opportunity was the fumbled snap at the goal line late in the second quarter that forced Ball State to kick a field goal. The Cardinals led by 7 at the time and appeared to be taking back momentum after a slow start.
Ball State junior running back Jahwan Edwards stood out as the offense’s likely savior early in the game. After six straight pass plays that resulted in back-to-back three and outs to open the game, Edwards erupted with 14 carries for 92 yards in the first half.
After the game, a somber Keith Wenning applauded Edwards’ performance saying he “balled out.”
“[Edwards] played his heart out,” the senior quarterback said.
As Ball State jumped out to a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter, it looked like the offense was going to keep rolling.
The team’s consistent leaders, Wenning, Edwards and junior wide receiver Willie Snead had all started to click. They were gaining yards, but still struggled to put points on the board.
It was just enough to keep the game in reach for Arkansas State.
Senior wide receiver Jamill Smith ended the game with four catches for 56 yards while senior tight end Zane Fakes had four catches for 28 yards.
They won’t play again in a Ball State uniform, and that’s all that was on Wenning’s mind after the game. Not the years they had spent together winning games, breaking records and building momentum.
“This game’s on my mind right now,” he said. “These seniors, the rest of the team, that’s what I’m hurting for right now.”
The momentum they built toward winning a bowl game in 10 wins this season was all but halted at the half.
Arkansas State managed to score a touchdown going into halftime that tied the game at 10. Coming out of the half, Ball State was once again unable to move the ball.
In the third quarter, Ball State had just two offensive possessions that both ended in turnovers on downs. Despite some of its best field position of the day, Ball State tallied just 51 yards of offense in the quarter.
Even then, it felt like Ball State’s offense would be able to reclaim momentum and score the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Lembo said it felt like they’d be able to do what they had done in seasons past.
“We’ve had 12 or 13 two-minute drives in the last three years that we’ve been able to score on just like that,” Lembo said.
Twice this season, against Kent State and Toledo, Ball State secured wins in the closing minutes.
After Wenning threw an interception that gave Arkansas State possession at the Ball State 8-yard line, it was up to the defense to keep Ball State in the game.
The Cardinals did, answering with an interception that led to a touchdown to retake the lead. Then as quickly as the defense saved the game, it allowed Arkansas State to score on a 5-play, 59-yard drive.
Facing a three-point deficit with just 28 seconds on the clock, Ball State’s offense again took center stage. A 5-play, 43-yard drive put the team in field goal range.
Twenty-six seconds had passed, leaving just two on the clock. Ball State snapped the ball and looked to have a clean look at the field goal until it left the holder’s hands.
It was just low enough for the Arkansas State defensive line to get a hand up and block it.
One field goal kept Ball State from its 11th win of the year and a chance at capping off one of the most successful seasons in school history with a bowl win.
Lembo lost sight of all the accolades after the game was over.
“We don’t want it to overshadow what we did this year, but obviously, this hurts,” he said.