Eastern Michigan (4-4, 2-3 MAC) came into Scheumann Stadium and put an end to Ball State’s (3-5, 2-2 MAC) Homecoming celebration, defeating the Cardinals 42-20.
“I’m disappointed more than anything for having an opportunity to play Homecoming here,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “Being 100 years and being a good crowd on hand, I hurt. I hurt for [alumni] for coming back, and that’s not what they wanted to see.”
Saturday’s contest between the Mid-American Conference foes had a less than desirable start for both teams.
The Eagles decided to go for it on fourth down on their first drive of the game. It would cost them, as they fumbled the ball and turned it over. On the Cardinals’ ensuing possession, redshirt junior quarterback Riley Neal threw an interception on third down to give it right back.
The Eagles took advantage of good field position and found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown carry by Shaq Vann.
Ball State had a chance to put points on the board late in the first quarter, but on an afternoon with wind gusts consistently above 20 mph and reaching as high as 40 mph, a 36-yard field goal try missed wide right.
Eastern Michigan’s defense forced another turnover early in the second quarter on a fumble at the end of a long run by Ball State junior Malik Dunner. The Eagles would again make the most of their position on the field, and Tyler Wiegers found Line Latu for a 41-yard touchdown strike to put them up two scores.
“That’s uncharacteristic,” Neu said. “Those are things we can’t have happen for us. We got to make them earn it. Our defense has been really good, and certainly it wasn’t our best game today all the way around.”
The Cardinals answered on their following possession. After rushing for 47 yards on the drive, Ball State reached the end zone on an over-the-shoulder pass from Neal to redshirt junior Riley Miller.
Two possessions later, Wiegers connected with Latu twice for more than 20 yards and ran it in himself to finish the drive. The score brought the first half to a close with Eastern Michigan on top 21-6.
“It’s a very challenging last half of the season, and we got to embrace that,” Neu said. “When the feet get on the ground tomorrow morning, it’s got to be all positive and just keep attacking.”
Each defense stalled to open the second half as the first three possessions resulted in punts. The next three would all result in touchdowns.
The Eagles got the second half scoring started. After completions of 19 and 13 yards, Wiegers found Arthur Jackson for a 17-yard touchdown connection.
On the Cardinals’ next drive, Neal had no trouble finding sophomore Justin Hall. The two would hook up four times, and Neal capped it off with an 11-yard scoring rush.
The Eagles again answered with a long touchdown pass, this one for 41 yards to Isaac Holder to extend the lead to 35-13.
“If we had executed our game plan, we would have put ourselves in a better position to come out on top, and we did not do that today,” redshirt junior linebacker Jacob White said. “What was put on the field today was not who we are as a defense.”
As the reserves took the field late in the fourth quarter, each team would tack on one more touchdown before time expired. Eagles’ quarterback Isaac Stiebeling reached the end zone on a 14-yard keep. Redshirt freshman Will Jones broke free for an 80-yard score on the Cardinals’ next play for his first collegiate touchdown. Eastern Michigan ran out the clock and walked away with a 42-20 victory.
The Cardinals will be back in action Thursday, Oct. 25 at Ohio.
Contact Zach Piatt with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.