In a season full of heartbreak, everything seemed to go Ball State’s way on Nov. 22.
The Ball State football team defeated Eastern Michigan 45-30 on Senior Day, giving the team its fourth win of the season.
“We had our share of miscues, but overall it was a good first half and we handled some adversity in the second half,” Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said. “It wasn’t the prettiest but we’ll certainly take it.”
The Cardinals wasted no time marching downfield, as freshman Darian Green picked up two first downs, one of them coming on a 28-yard toss to the left. Close to the end zone, quarterback Jack Milas scored on a zone option read, barreling into the end zone for the touchdown.
After Eastern Michigan added a field goal to get on the board, Ball State struck again. Milas appeared to hand the ball off to Teddy Williamson, who was crushed, only to keep the ball himself and sprint down the right sideline for 54 yards. Facing third and nine, Milas hit freshman Corey Lacanaria on a fade pass to the end zone, extending the lead to 14-3. It was the first touchdown of Lacanaria’s career.
On a fourth and one two drives later, senior Jahwan Edwards took the handoff up the middle and spun away from a defender, breaking away down the right sideline for a 29-yard touchdown.
Edwards finished with 132 rushing yards and a touchdown. It was the final game he will play at Scheumann Stadium in his four-year career. He also passed Marcus Merriweather for most carries in Ball State history.
“I’m so thankful,” Edwards said. “I didn’t know I was going to cry this much. I cried so much through the Cardinal walk…just thankful for the opportunity.”
With Eastern Michigan starting to drive, quarterback Reginald Bell Jr. fumbled, recovered by redshirt sophomore Aaron Taylor. Freshman Jordan Hogue caught a pass from Milas and took it the distance, giving Ball State a 28-3 halftime lead.
The rout continued to start the second half, as Eastern Michigan fumbled on its first possession. Five Ball State defenders attempted to pick up the ball and run, all failing until Ben Ingle scooped it up and scored, extending the lead to 35-3.
Ingle returned to play for the first time since injuring his ankle a few weeks ago. He finished the game with seven tackles. Zack Ryan led with 15. The pair spent most of the game chasing down Bell Jr., who had 120 rushing yards along with 409 through the air.
“You count him as an extra back in the backfield,” Ingle said. “You have to account for him, he’s a great athlete, a great football player.”
Bell Jr. used his legs to pick up two first downs on the next drive, finding Tyreese Russell for a 10 yard touchdown. Eastern Michigan tacked on two more fields goals, cutting the lead to 35-16.
Milas left the game on the next drive with a broken wrist on his non-throwing arm. Redshirt sophomore Ozzie Mann replaced him.
Milas finished the game with 169 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, a noticeable improvement from his previous two starts.
Edwards broke off a 27-yard run to open the third quarter, but the Cardinals were forced to settle for a field goal. After Ball State recovered a fumble, Mann hit redshirt junior Dylan Curry for the touchdown, extending Ball State’s lead to 45-16.
Darius Jackson and Kris Strange both hauled in a touchdown pass from Bell Jr. in the final minutes of the game, cutting Ball State’s lead to 45-30.
The win was No. 29 for the senior class.
“This isn’t always the easiest place to achieve success, and these guys have achieved quite a bit of it during their time,” Lembo said.
Ball State improves to 4-7, and 3-4 in Mid-American Conference play.