In jeopardy of losing its fifth straight game, Ball State faced a fourth and goal on Western Michigan's eight-yard line.
With 20 seconds remaining, Ball State quarterback Jack Milas took the snap and lofted a pass to wideout KeVonn Mabon who was running a fade route to the back right of the end zone.
The pass landed out of bounds, the Broncos took a knee and the Cardinals suffered a heartbreak on Homecoming, 42-38.
Despite the loss, Ball State's offense played its best game of the year. Making his first collegiate start, Milas completed 26 of 42 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns.
"I thought I did some things well, but I definitely got to improve," the redshirt freshman said. "I missed a lot of easy reads."
Early on, Milas barely missed a thing, throwing for 160 yards and completing touchdown passes of 32, 17 and three yards before half.
Junior wideout Jordan Williams had his most productive day of the season, catching 11 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
At the end of the second quarter, Ball State held a 31-14 lead and looked poised to run away from Western Michigan.
The Broncos came out of intermission with new energy, however, and in less than 10 minutes the Cardinals' lead was cut to 31-28.
Milas's fourth touchdown, a 26-yard completion to Mabon, gave Ball State a double-digit lead and appeared to turn the momentum back in the Cardinals' favor.
But on a day when the offense showed up, the defense faltered. Western Michigan continued to move the ball with ease, and after a 54-yard touchdown run by running back Jarvion Franklin and a 12-yard touchdown pass from Zach Terrell to Daniel Braverman, the Broncos led 42-38.
Ball State was unable to stop Franklin all day, as the freshman carried the ball 24 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
With 1:18 remaining, the Cardinals had one last chance to snap their losing streak, but Milas's pass overshot Mabon, dropping Ball State to 1-5 for the season.
"I saw Mabon, and I thought he could win that matchup. I just have to make that throw," Milas said.
While not happy with the loss, Ball State head coach Pete Lembo liked what he saw from his new quarterback, who threw for a Cardinal season-high 326 yards.
"We threw the ball better today than we have all year," Lembo said. "[Milas] did a really nice job. Obviously, there's a lot of pressure."