It wasn’t until the 2:08 mark in the third quarter that Ball State (1-2, 0-0 MAC) was able to find the end zone Saturday.
Redshirt junior running back James Gilbert took the hand-off at the 27-yard line, bounced it to the left sideline, broke a tackle and cruised to the promise land for the score. The Cardinals would need a few more of those in the end, falling to Indiana (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten), 38-10.
“It’s always a good feeling to get an opportunity to score for your teammates, but we should have been scoring from the start of the game,” Gilbert said. “We dropped the ball on the first possession to end up with a field goal. We got to score touchdowns in the red zone.”
The Cardinals were the first to put points on the board after senior Morgan Hagee capped off a 12-play, 61-yard drive with a field goal. The Hoosiers matched with three points of their own and didn’t take the foot off the gas afterwards, scoring 31 unanswered.
“Week in and week out, every game you play always takes a different shape, and the game unfolds differently. That’s the beauty of the game of football,” head coach Mike Neu said. “When you have one of them at the end of each week, you have to be ready to respond to any in-game challenges that you may have, and we didn’t do that today.”
As if the Cardinals’ performance on the field wasn’t punishment enough, their lone touchdown was almost taken away.
Gilbert crossed the goal line untouched, swung his arm like an imaginary baseball bat and placed his hand above his eyes suggesting he hit a home run a considerable distance. Pretty straight forward, right? Wrong. The play would be reviewed, as whether or not Gilbert dropped the ball before he crossed the plane was in question.
Gilbert said he was surprised the play was reviewed but added he may have gotten caught up in the moment during his celebration.
“I was like, ‘I know I crossed it.’ Then we saw the review, and I was like, ‘Dang, I really dropped it,’” Gilbert said. “If we had to go back out there, I would have punched it back in.”
Even with the disgust of Hoosier fans in Memorial Stadium every time the replay was shown on the videoboard, the call stood as a touchdown. Despite the outcome of the play, Neu and Gilbert emphasized showboating is not the identity of the team and is not how Ball State plays.
The touchdown put the Cardinals behind 31-10. Neu said it shifted momentum but didn’t last long.
“This is a group that is going to fight and never think by any stretch of the imagination, whatever’s on the scoreboard, that we don’t have a chance to win,” Neu said. “James’ touchdown gave the defense the mindset that they were going to go on the field, get a stop and get the ball back to the offense… We didn’t utilize the momentum we were able to gain from James’ touchdown.”
Gilbert’s touchdown wound up as the last score of the day for the Cardinals. IU tacked on another score early in the fourth quarter and took the game by a final score of 38-10.
While the score was lopsided, sophomore safety Bryce Cosby said the Cardinals were confident they would come out with a win, and the defense shot itself in the foot with poor execution.
“We beat ourselves in certain aspects,” Cosby said. “Defensively, they didn’t come out and do anything that we hadn’t seen on film, so it’s more disappointment because it was lack of execution on our part.”
This marks the Hoosiers’ sixth win in their all-time series with Ball State. The two will meet again next year at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Cardinals will close out their non-conference schedule at home against Western Kentucky 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22.
Contact Zach Piatt with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.