The kick knuckled through the cold October air, tumbling and twisting violently to the right before sliding through the lower right corner of the goalpost.
Kelly Shorts Stadium went silent as Ball State kicker Scott Secor pumped his fist. He had nailed a 55-yard field goal with just 17 seconds left to give his team a 32-29 win against Central Michigan.
It was an ugly, awkward line drive that couldn’t have looked more beautiful to the Ball State team that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Even Secor was stunned it went through.
“I don’t know how that got through. Man, that was my luckiest kick ever,” he said to teammate Jahwan Edwards after the game. “I line-drived the s—t out of that thing.”
The kick was a career-long for Secor, as Ball State had just enough offense and defense to pull out the victory.
The Cardinals took advantage of three Chippewa unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on its opening drive before Edwards pounded the ball in from seven yards out, giving Ball State a 6-0 lead. Secor’s extra point was blocked, his only blemish on the day.
Central Michigan responded immediately as quarterback Cooper Rush pushed the ball downfield, utilizing four different receivers. Running back Thomas Rawls punched the ball in from the five-yard line, helping his team to an early 7-6 lead.
He finished the game with 167 yards on the ground and a touchdown, consistently making life difficult for a Ball State defense that’s struggled defending the run all season.
“Our guys kept believing through several weeks of adversity here,” Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said. “That goes back to culture … not flinching and not giving in, not trying to play a different game than what’s been successful in the past.”
Chances are, Ball State’s culture doesn’t include turning bad snaps into touchdowns. Facing second and twelve, quarterback Jack Milas fumbled a bad snap and scooped it up, scrambling to his right. He found KeVonn Mabon on the right sideline, who weaved in and out of defenders, spinning away from a defender who had him wrapped up, before sprinting to the end zone.
Exactly how they drew it up.
“It comes down to which team makes more plays, and that’s exactly what we did today,” Lembo said.
Secor tacked on two more field goals, and Rush hit Joe Bacci for a one-yard touchdown before Ball State’s Michael Ayers picked up a fumble and returned it to the Central Michigan one. Edwards scored for the second time in the game, giving Ball State a 26-14 lead heading into halftime.
The Chippewas marched downfield to start the third quarter, the opening drive capped off with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rush to Titus Davis, cutting the lead to six. The teams traded punts until Ball State worked the ball deep into Central Michigan territory.
Edwards took a handoff and bounced it to the right for 10 yards, to the Central Michigan seven. The run gave Edwards the record for most rushing yards in Ball State history. He finished the game with 98 yards, and has 4,013 in his career.
“I’ve had to push through a lot of adversity throughout my career, outside of football,” Edwards said. “[I] push through that adversity with my guys, who have my back.”
After Secor added another field goal to extend the lead to 29-21, Rush began driving his team again. Sitting on the Ball State 11, defensive back Eric Patterson jarred the ball loose from Rawls's hands and Sean Wiggins recovered, igniting the defense.
Just a few minutes later, Rush found Davis for a touchdown, and after a successful two-point conversion, the ball was put in Milas’s hands for a game-winning drive.
He found Williams, Shillings, Edwards and Corey Lacanaria on the final drive. The redshirt freshman finished the game with 198 yards and a touchdown, setting up Secor’s dramatic finish.
“It was a little bit of a mishit, but it went through,” Secor said.
That’s all that matters to him.