Ball State Football (2-4, 1-1 MAC) battled hard but it wasn’t enough as Northern Illinois (3-3, 2-0 MAC) comes out on top, 24-16.
The Cardinals looked to be off on a good start when on its first drive they marched down field into Husky territory but the drive was stalled when redshirt junior quarterback Riley Neal, was sacked on first down, which then lead to a punt.
Northern Illinois running back Marcus Jones, then helped the Huskies get on the board first after a 64-yard run, which led to a 13-yard touchdown pass.
The Cardinals played a well-rounded defensive game, however, a couple big plays by the powerful Huskies run game hurt them. It allowed it to rush for 227 yards on 43 attempts.
“Minus that one big run, I think our guys competed, fought, battled and really the defense had a nice day and did a nice job overall,” Head coach Mike Neu said.
The Cardinals looked to have a promising attempt of answering on the score, however, a fumble in Huskie territory stalled its drive. Which lead to Northern Illinois later going down field and reaching the end-zone for the second time in the first half giving them a 14-0 lead.
The Cardinals offense looked good in the second quarter marching 67-yards down the field after a few big plays, however, it was stopped in the red-zone on third down and had to settle for the field goal to make the score 14-3.
The Cardinals had a lot of success with their offense throughout the game, however, it just couldn’t find their way into the end-zone as much as it would have liked.
“It’s very important that we put to score touchdowns in the end-zone," sophomore Justin Hall said. “Field goals are cool but I’m not a field goal guy, I like the touchdowns.”
The Cardinals had to lean on their senior kicker Morgan Hagee, for points the majority of the game and he came through for the team finishing the game kicking 3-of-3.
At the end of the second quarter, Hagee showed off his leg with 51-yard field goal, which is now his career long, making the score 14-6 going into halftime. He also kicked in a 47-yard field goal.
The Cardinals defense stepped up at the start of the second half forcing a three-and-out. However, the Cardinals weren’t able to add any points and the Huskies made them pay with an 80-yard touchdown drive giving it a 21-9 lead.
The Cardinals defense turned it up in the fourth quarter making some key stops. Junior Ray Wilborn, intercepted Marcu Childers pass in the fourth quarter and return it 43-yards, which led to an immediate 3-yard rushing touchdown for redshirt junior James Gilbert, giving the Cardinals a shot. This was Ball States first and only touchdown throughout the game.
Ball State had one last chance to score again and possibly tie the game on a deep toss-up pass into the end-zone as time expired, however, it was incomplete.
“We had our opportunities, we simply didn’t make enough plays in critical situations to get a win,” Neu said. “Playing against a team like that every opportunity matters and every opportunity counts.
Ball State will head on the road next Saturday, Oct. 13 to take on Central Michigan (1-5, 0-2 MAC) at 3 p.m.