Saturday’s game was Ball State’s first true road test while facing a large crowd and an aggressive defense. Although Ball State (1-3, 0-0 MAC) ended up losing 34-23 to NC State (3-1, 0-0 ACC), there were positives to take away from the Cardinals’ performance.
Hot start fizzles out
Similar to the game against Indiana Aug. 31, the Cardinals found themselves ahead early, but they couldn’t hold on throughout the game. At the end of the first quarter, Ball State was up 7-6 and in control defensively. However, the Wolfpack answered by keeping the Cardinals off the scoreboard in the second quarter and went into halftime up 20-7.
The Cardinals had another spurt of energy in the second half that ignited some comeback energy. A couple of missed opportunities by the offense would not let Ball State recover from the first half damage by NC State.
Pressure on Plitt
The NC State defense put pressure on redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt unlike anything Plitt has seen this season. The Wolfpack didn’t let Plitt find the end zone all night. Although he threw for more than 300 yards, there were a handful of botched plays and missed passes in crucial moments during the game. A combination of an ACC defense and a packed stadium may have impacted Plitt’s performance under pressure. Plitt also ended up throwing an interception from a bobbled ball in the end zone to stop a charging Cardinal offense in the fourth quarter.
White and Rimmler
What kept Ball State fighting until the end was the front seven on defense that stopped NC State from marching down the field every drive. Redshirt senior linebacker Jacob White led the team in tackles with 18 — 14 of them solo. This prevented a lot of big-time rushes from NC State, especially in the first half.
Senior Ryan Rimmler was another big factor in Ball State’s scoring efforts Saturday. The kicker from Germany buried three field goals, two of which were more than 40 yards away including a career-high 43-yarder. His confidence became crucial as hitting field goals has been a Ball State problem to start the season.
Breakdown in the secondary
On the other side of the defense, it was the secondary that NC State really took advantage of. Especially in the second quarter, the Wolfpack marched down the field while using passes up the middle and rushes to the outside. This proved to be the turning point as NC State used this to add on 14 points in the second quarter.
Hall and Miller
Plitt’s two favorite targets of the night were junior Justin Hall and redshirt senior Riley Miller. Each receiver had more than 70 yards and produced big plays on third downs. Hall found the end zone in the first quarter on a jet sweep rush to the right side to give the Cardinals the lead.