Cardinals wait out 4 lightning delays, beat Owls 31-27
Tick. Tick. Tick.
If you looked up at the video board at FAU Stadium Sept. 24, there was a good chance it was counting down from 30:00 after another round of lightning streaked across the sky.
It was all but impossible to seize and hold momentum. The delays felt closer an hour, and the fourth and final one came right after Ball State's defense came up with a big stop on 4th-and-1 with 5:33 left in the game and the Cardinals trailing Florida Atlantic 27-24.
Ball State total yards: 488
FAU total yards: 445
Ball State rushing yards: 226
FAU rushing yards: 121
Ball State tackles for loss: 11
FAU tackles for loss: 2
When play resumed, Ball State marched downfield until sophomore quarterback Riley Neal scored the go-ahead touchdown with just under two minutes left, and the Cardinals escaped with a 31-27 victory over Florida Atlantic to improve to 3-1.
Just like head coach Mike Neu said they would.
"We said when we left the locker room, offensively, we're gonna go down and score a touchdown," Neu said. "The defense is gonna come out and stop them. Then we're gonna come out and go with the greatest play in football, which is victory."
Neal got the drive going with a screen pass to junior running back Darian Green that went for 22 yards. A few plays later, he hit senior receiver KeVonn Mabon on third down to move the sticks deep in Owl territory.
Neal's second rushing touchdown of the night put Ball State up for good. He finished 23-37 for 252 yards through the air, with two passing touchdowns, an interception and 74 rushing yards on 14 carries.
"It was a perfect situation for us, really," he said. "We're down three and have the ball with five minutes left. We kind of thought about what we were gonna do that drive, and executed pretty well."
Neal was happy to have all his weapons playing in this game. Three receivers had at least five catches, and junior Corey Lacanaria led the way with 62 yards — including a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
"We're deep, so even when guys are injured it's not a huge deal," Neal said. "But it's always nice having guys like Corey, and he showed what he can do tonight."
Neal also connected with senior tight end Sam Brunner for a 26-yard score in the first quarter.
Florida Atlantic quarterback Jason Driskel got the Owls' offense going early. He ran for the first score, and threw a long touchdown to Kalib Woods over the top for the second.
Driskel finished 25-37 with his 324 passing yards accounting for most of Florida Atlantic's 445 total yards. He was also sacked three times, and senior defensive end Josh Posley led the Cardinals with 1.5 of those sacks.
"It was a couple missed assignments here and there," Posley said. "We weren't locked in on a couple specific plays, but once we refocused we were able to stop everything."
After Ball State's late touchdown, the defense was tasked with stopping Driskel and the Owls. Posley came up with a big sack on third down, and senior linebacker Zack Ryan intercepted a pass on fourth down to seal the win.
"We had some crazy things happen tonight, and it might've been the longest game ever," Neu said. "But I'm just proud of the guys for sticking together. We've figured out what it takes to win on the road, and that's all that mattered."
From there, Ball State kneeled the ball, the clock counting down from 1:18.
Tick. Tick. Tick.