Ball State defensive rush struggles in loss to Western Michigan

<p>Freshman safety Brett Anderson looks to tackle a Western Michigan player during Ball State's game on Sept. 30, 2017. Anderson led Ball State with seven total tackles in the team's 55-3 loss. <strong>Robby General, DN</strong></p>

Freshman safety Brett Anderson looks to tackle a Western Michigan player during Ball State's game on Sept. 30, 2017. Anderson led Ball State with seven total tackles in the team's 55-3 loss. Robby General, DN

On just 14 completions, quarterback Jon Wassink of Western Michigan passed for 240 yards and three touchdowns, a career best for the redshirt sophomore.

He was eventually replaced in the game, but he had plenty of time in the backfield as Ball State’s defensive front struggled to put pressure on him.

For the first time this season, Ball State went without recording a single sack in a game and recorded just four tackles for loss in the 55-3 conference opening loss.

Entering the game, Western Michigan averaged 219 yards on the ground and just 138 through the air, but its offensive attack was a different story against Ball State.

“We worked really hard at focusing on stopping the run and I just think their quarterback had good rhythm on those deep throws,” defensive coordinator David Elson said. “They haven’t been able to connect [through the air] so far and unfortunately they connected tonight on us.”

Wassink connected on two 49-plus yard plays on the night, including his last pass of the night, where he connected on a 52-yard touchdown pass to Keishaw Watson late in the third quarter. Watson was double-covered on the play, but he broke away from the Ball State defenders, breaking a tackle to score his second touchdown of the night.

Ball State still leads the Mid-American Conference in terms of sacks, but the Cardinals will need to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks if hopes to stop the passing game. Western Michigan’s offensive stats were nothing special, but it started in Ball State territory six times, resulting in 31 points.

Coming into the game, freshman safety Brett Anderson said he expected Western Michigan to pass the ball, due to the team’s struggles pass defense struggles last season.

“Coach said ‘leave this one in Kalamazoo,’” Anderson said. “We’ve got a game next week against Akron, and we just got to stay focused for that. We can’t get hung up on the loss. It is what it is.”

Anderson led Ball State’s defense with seven total tackles, sharing a tackle for a loss and breaking up one pass.

On the plus side, Ball State limited Western Michigan on the ground, giving up 169 yards against a team that has led the MAC in rushing yards to this point. 

After the game, head coach Mike Neu said that there wasn’t just one aspect of the game that Ball State struggled with.

“We did not play Ball State Cardinal football,” Neu said. “It’s disappointing, hard to swallow, but at the same time, we got to leave this loss here in Kalamazoo. … We’ve got to move forward as a football team.”

According to senior quarterback Jack Milas, Neu was positive in the locker room after the game, asking the team to stick together moving forward.

Ball State continues to struggle with injuries, mainly on the offensive side, but junior cornerback Marc Walton, who was one of four defensive players to start all 12 games last season, was out against Western Michigan.

“I think like anything else, you need to learn from it and you got to move on,” Elson said. “You can’t hold onto it for too long, but you also can’t dismiss it.”

Ball State will be on the road next week against Akron (2-3, 1-0 MAC). Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 7.


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