Halfway through the second quarter against Massachusetts, Ball State third string running back Teddy Williamson lined up in the backfield. First stringer Jahwan Edwards and second stringer Horactio Banks stood next to each other on the sideline.
It was that kind of day for the Ball State rushing attack.
The Cardinals finished its 24-10 loss to the Minutemen with just 69 yards rushing on 30 attempts, a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. Whether it was left, right or up the middle, Ball State was unable to move the ball on the ground.
The lack of rushing success brought the offense to a grinding halt, going 4-17 on third down and scoring 10 points, the lowest total of the season. The loss also eliminates Ball State from bowl contention. Teams need six wins to be bowl eligible, Ball State has three wins and just two games remaining.
Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said one of the goals going into the game was to stay balanced between the run and the pass. His team threw the ball 37 times compared to the 30 rushes, maintaining that balance, but it was ineffective overall.
When Ball State was able to push the ball downfield, rushes for little or no gain often stalled drives that looked promising. Without a credible rushing threat, the Cardinals were backed up into third and long situations which they couldn’t convert, leaving valuable points unscored.
“We still got enough stops defensively, and we’ve got to put more points on the board,” Lembo said.
Edwards finished the game with 16 carries for 36 yards, while Banks had four for 11. They, and the team, were not available for comment after the game.
There was a period in the second half when quarterback Jack Milas would fake handoffs to Edwards or Banks, then keep the ball himself.
The designed deception plays were some of the most effective rushes of the game, and they came from the quarterback position.
Lembo said the lack of production hindered the offense, slowing it down enough to be unproductive.
“It set it back quite a bit. That was one of our goals coming in, to be able to try and stay balanced,” Lembo said.
Tied at seven in the second quarter, Ball State’s Avery Bailey intercepted UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and returned it to the Massachusetts 46-yard line, ideal field position for Ball State to march downfield and take the lead.
Instead, Ball State was forced to punt after two runs for a combined five yards and an incomplete pass.
Massachusetts promptly walked downfield in five plays, scoring a touchdown to retake a lead it would never surrender.