Total yards: 238
Passing yards: 175
Rushing yards: 63
Total yards: 414
Passing yards: 245
Rushing yards: 169
The opening kickoff would be a microcosm of Ball State (2-3, 0-1 Mid-American Conference West Division) football's 55-3 loss against Western Michigan (3-2, 1-0 MAC West).
Ball State freshman wide receiver Justin Hall fielded the kick at the one-yard line and began to run forward. By the time he got to the Ball State 21 yard line, he had lost the ball. In the blink of an eye, Western Michigan redshirt sophomore defensive back Obbie Jackson scooped the ball off the ground and ran it back to the end zone untouched.
Less than ten seconds had erased from the clock and Western Michigan already led 7-0.
“Obviously we came out here, started off on the wrong foot with a kickoff return fumble for a touchdown, so we tried to continue to stay positive, try to get our guys to fight, compete, scratch, claw for four quarters," Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. "We got beat in all phases, we got to move forward."
The onslaught would continue. The Broncos stopped Ball State's offense to just one first down on the next drive and then proceeded to go 89 yards on 13 yards to extend its lead to 14-0.
Ball State's only scoring opportunity of the first half would come on the next drive when it strung together three straight first downs to march down to the Western Michigan 15 yard line.
Ball State senior quarterback Jack Milas would miss on three straight passes following the first downs, forcing senior kicker Morgan Hagee to try a 33-yard field goal which he hooked wide right.
Western Michigan sophomore quarterback Jon Wassink would set a career high in passing yards, connecting on 14-of-20 attempts for 240 yards through the air and three touchdowns.
Three different Broncos running backs scored touchdowns, with junior Jamauri Bogan leading the way with 13 rushes for 69 yards. Senior Jarvion Franklin had 37 yards on 11 carries and sophomore Davon Tucker scored had 32 yards on nine carries.
Ball State was led in tackles by freshman free safety Brett Anderson with seven. Western Michigan junior strong side linebacker Alex Grace had six tackles for the Broncos and forced a pair of fumbles.
“Coming into it we did expect them to pass the ball a bit, just because our old defensive coordinator is there," He knows our [defensive backs] and last year we weren’t very great in the defensive backfield, so we were expecting some shots. We just gotta tighten up the coverage and play better.”
Freshman Caleb Huntley led a stunted Ball State rushing attack with 33 yards on 11 carries. The Cardinals managed just 63 yards on the ground for 2.1 yards per rush. Ball State was without starting junior running back James Gilbert, who was out with a hand injury.
After the game, Neu, who appeared visibly upset after speaking to his team said that his team was focused on moving forward and preparing for Akron next week.
“Every game we go into obviously we try and establish the run and have balance," Neu said. "When you get yourself down 14-0 early in the game, you don’t abandon it, but maybe it looked and appeared that there were a few more pass plays called."
Ball State found its points of the game on a 28-yard kick by Hagee with 10:18 left in the third quarter to make the score 38-3. The kick came after Ball State was stopped at the WMU 1 yard line on three straight downs. On 4th and goal, freshman running Malik Dunner would find the end zone, but the play was called back due to holding, forcing Ball State to attempt the field goal.
Milas finished 22-for-40 for 170 yards and an interception, he was sacked three times in the game. His favorite target of the night was Hall who finished with 121 receiving yards on 13 catches.
“We knew we had to be aggressive, they’re a good team," Milas said. "We just didn’t execute how we wanted, obviously falling behind like that doesn’t help, so that kind of doesn’t change things up, but it definitely pushes things in terms of getting to establish plays earlier than you expected.”
Sophomore quarterback Zack Blair received the first playing time of his career at quarterback, coming in on Ball State's last drive late in the fourth quarter. He finished 1-for-3 for five yards and picked up 22 yards on 4 carries. He had played on special teams in two games last season for the Cardinals.
Western Michigan won the field position battle, starting six drives in Ball State territory, converting them into 31 points. The Cardinals started none of its drives on Western Michigan's side of the field.
"We’re not going to let this game determine our season, they’re a very good team and we just need to compete," Milas said. "That’s really not who we are, we’ve been around each other for a year now and we know we can play much better than that.”
Ball State is back in action on Oct. 7 against Akron at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Sam Barloga with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.