For the second week in a row Ball State made things interesting late in the game, but the result remained the same.
Ball State (2-10, 0-8 MAC) lost 28-7 to Miami (5-7, 4-4 MAC) for its ninth consecutive loss this season and first official loss in the “Red Bird Rivalry.”
“We had a couple of opportunities where an interception slipped through our hands and landed in the hands of the Miami players,” head coach Mike Neu said about the first half. “I’m proud of the effort in the second half, to hold them to a shutout there and be scoreless in the second half is positive. … There’s a lot of positive that happened, but certainly when you lose, it overshadows everything else.”
Big plays were the story of the game for Ball State, after a fumbled punt in the second half and a late first-half interception from Josh allen gave Miami a pair of easy scores.
After going down 28-0 at halftime, Ball State held Miami scoreless in the second half, scoring its first touchdown of the game with a 28-yard rush from sophomore running back Malik Dunner.
Later in the quarter redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Plitt – who replaced redshirt senior quarterback Jack Milas – marched Ball State downfield before a two-yard pass from Plitt was intercepted, giving Miami the 21-point victory.
The 2-10 season record is Ball State’s worst since 2009 and marks only the second time the team went 0-8 in the conference – the last being in 1999 when the team finished 0-11.
Still, Ball State played the game it wanted to, shutting down Miami quarterback Gus Ragland, who had a career game against the Cardinals one year ago.
“This is our last game, senior night, and we just tried everything we can to get a W,” redshirt junior cornerback Josh Miller said. “They like to pass the ball a lot, so shutting them down was the key to everything. We just wanted to win. … I just wish we did better.”
Raglan completed 15-of-27 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns compared to his 380-yard performance last season.
As a team, Ball State outran Miami (293-125) in rushing yards and won the total yard battler (391-273), but big turnovers and a botched punt proved to be the difference in the game.
Caleb Huntly led the running attack with 159 yards, netting him 1,003 yards on the season and making him the second freshman running back in Ball State’s history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Plitt and Neal finished with 52 and 51 yards a piece, respectively, while Dunner had 60 and a touchdown.
For Ball State, it was the last game for 10 of its seniors – Jordan Hogue, Malik King, Pat Maloney, Reggie McGee, Jack Milas, David Moore, Vinnie Palazeti, John Swisher, Kevin Willis and Anthony Winbush.
“It’s easy to get down on your current situation and what’s going on right now in this moment,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Vinnie Palazeti said. “It’s a little harder to try and reflect on the good times and everything you’ve learned and how I’ve grown in five years.”
The Red Bird Rivalry will continue through the following years after an approval by the Mid-American Conference.
While the season is over for Ball State and the future remains bright, Palazeti shared some enlightenment for the players in the program moving forward:
“The future was bright when I was a freshman, too,” Palazeti said. “We had a lot of guys with a lot of talent that came in with my freshman class and the problem was we didn’t have a common mission and we didn’t stick together and then people left, one by one. It’s not all rainbows just because you have a lot of talent on your team, the talent has to stay, you’ve got to retain the talent and you’ve got to have talented coaches around you.
“The future is bright and it’s only as bright as the guys who want to take over and make it bright.”