Ohio (5-3, 3-1 MAC) outrushed Ball State (3-6, 2-3 MAC) 411-80 Thursday in a game that was never in question from the start of the second quarter.
“I only know one way in my life,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said of how to get his team back on track. “and that’s to fight.”
The Cardinals got on the board first after an interception by sophomore linebacker Christian Albright. They started their drive near midfield before redshirt junior Riley Neal connected with sophomore Justin Hall for a 32-yard gain, setting the Cardinals up at the 20. Neal subsequently connected with redshirt junior Riley Miller in the end zone for the first score of the game.
The Bobcats had a solid drive going and found themselves at the Ball State 1-yard line as the clock expired in the first quarter. Maleek Irons would punch it in to start the second to even the score at seven apiece. This was the start of eight consecutive Bobcat scoring drives and seven straight Cardinal three-and-outs.
Once the Bobcats found the end zone, they simply kept rolling. A field goal on their next drive gave them their first lead of the game, and they wouldn’t give it up, scoring 52 unanswered points.
A Cardinal fumble set Ohio up in great field position, and A.J. Ouellette finished the job with a 9-yard touchdown.
“We lost to a good football team,” Neu said. “We didn’t have an answer really to what they were doing to us offensively… We certainly could never get the momentum switched.”
On the Bobcats’ next possession, the ball was continually moving. All eight plays gained yardage, and the drive was capped off by a 2-yard plunge by quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Ball State sent redshirt sophomore Drew Plitt out at quarterback for its last drive of the first half, as it appeared as though Neal had injured himself on the previous possession. The Cardinals couldn’t get anything going as they punted away, leaving Ohio with 31 seconds to work with before halftime.
The Bobcats used the sidelines as their friend, getting out-of-bounds on two separate downfield gains. Rourke completed a 24-yard pass to Isiah Cox down to Ball State’s 21. On the first play after a timeout, Rourke found Andrew Meyer for a touchdown with two seconds left in the half. Ohio went into the locker room up 31-7 with 164 more offensive yards than the Cardinals.
“All I cared about at halftime was coming out in the second half and have a one play at a time approach, leave everything you’ve got on the field, no negative vibes and no negative energy on the sideline,” Neu said.
The halftime break didn’t cool the Bobcats down, as they marched down the field after receiving the opening kickoff of the second half. Rourke was once again the beneficiary, running it in from three yards out.
Following another Cardinal three-and-out, Ohio switched quarterbacks, and Quinton Maxwell entered the game. That didn’t slow down the Bobcats either. On his first play, Maxwell connected with Meyer for a 16-yard gain. Ouellette broke a 44-yard run to the end zone on the next play, extending the lead to 38.
The Cardinals’ woes continued on their next drive, as Plitt was picked off, and the ball was returned to the 11-yard line. The Bobcats once again took advantage of the turnover, as Irons ran for his second score of the day, marking the eighth straight Ohio drive resulting in points.
Another three-and-out for Ball State brought out the remaining reserves for the Bobcats, and a missed field goal attempt finally ended the scoring streak.
Ball State at last reached the end zone again late in the fourth quarter. After completing two passes of more than 20 yards, Plitt ran it in himself for the Cardinals’ second score of the night.
Ohio ran down the remaining time on the clock and walked away with a convincing 52-14 victory.
Ball State struggled to move the ball at all offensively. The Cardinals ended the day with only 242 yards and 11 first downs. The Bobcats only completed 12 passes, but they had six rushing touchdowns and two players with 100-yard rushing games.
“Only the strong survive,” Neu said. “I’m interested in guys getting on the bus that want to go fight and find a solution, and those are the guys we’ll go to war with.”
The Cardinals will travel to Toledo next to take on the Rockets Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m.