Ball State’s three-game losing streak hasn’t been kind to Jack Milas.
The redshirt senior quarterback already threw two interceptions as he lined up in a shotgun formation on third-and-15 from the Cardinals’ 36-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Milas took the snap and ran to his right to escape pressure. It looked like he was going to run out of bounds when he suddenly twisted his body and lofted the ball back across the field.
It floated into the arms of Zips sophomore linebacker John Lako, who returned Milas’s third interception of the day for a 35-yard touchdown.
“Jack struggled,” head coach Mike Neu said. “I know at the end there that play looks really bad. When you throw across your body, that’s one of those things as a quarterback when you go to camp early on as a kid, that’s the biggest no-no.”
Milas went 21-41 passing for 176 yards with the three interceptions. Starting the last three games in place of injured junior quarterback Riley Neal, Milas has thrown six interceptions without a touchdown.
“For a redshirt senior, even though he hasn’t played a ton the last two years, he’s played some ball in his college career,” Neu said. “You’ve got to expect better than that.”
Freshman running back Caleb Huntley, however, was a bright spot for the Cardinals. Huntley ran for 129 yards, Ball State’s highest single-game total of the season.
“I’m not really focused on my performance,” Huntley said. “I like to win, so this loss it hurts the heart. I mean yeah I had a good game, but overall we still lost so I can’t even be happy with that.”
Huntley averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and he said the return of redshirt senior Vinnie Palazeti helped clear space. Palazeti missed the last two games with an injury.
“That made a huge difference because once you hit the hole it was more open than it usually is,” Huntley said. “… Vinnie being back makes more space to run.”
But Huntley didn’t score a touchdown.
Trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, Ball State had second-and-goal on Akron’s 2-yard line. Three straight times, Milas handed off to Huntley, and three straight times Huntley was stopped.
Akron took over on its own 1-yard line after the fourth-down stop.
“I was just exhausted and the defense just blitzed,” Huntley said. “There was nowhere to go.”
Ball State’s offense gained 376 yards against Akron but was only 1-3 in the red zone, the lone score coming on junior Morgan Hagee’s 31-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Strangely, Akron scored 31 points without actually having an offensive play in the red zone.
Zips senior quarterback Thomas Woodson passed for a 24-yard touchdown to senior receiver Austin Wolf in the first quarter and connected with redshirt junior Kwadarrius Smith for a 21-yard touchdown in the fourth. Akron also scored on a 32-yard run by redshirt sophomore Deltron Sands and a 48-yard field goal by redshirt junior Tom O’Leary in the second quarter.
Woodson went 17-30 for 211 yards. He was sacked twice, but for most of the game the Zips neutralized the Cardinals pass rush with a series of quick passes. Sophomore Sean Hammonds Jr. sacked Thompson, and he said the presence of redshirt senior Anthony Winbush, who entered the game leading the Football Bowl Subdivision with 7.5 sacks, affected Akron’s game plan.
“Well when you’ve got the leading sacker in the nation, that’s what happens,” Hammonds said. “A lot of sly, quick passes. We’ve got to keep rushing, don’t stop our feet, but they’re going to come. Once they come, they’re going to come in bunches.”
The Cardinals are on their bye this week. Neu said the team will use the week to evaluate both their play and their health.
“I don’t know where we’re at yet with Riley,” Neu said. “We’ll learn next week what his status is, but going into the bye week here, we’re going to have a couple of days where we practice and get a couple of the young quarterbacks some reps, evaluate them and see where we’re at.”
Sophomore quarterback Zack Blair replaced Milas for the final drive of the game, going 3-5 passing for 45 yards. He led the Cardinals inside the Zips' 10-yard line, but was sacked on fourth-and-goal.
Ball State doesn’t play again until it hosts Central Michigan at Scheumann Stadium on Oct. 21 for Homecoming.