All Ball State (3-3, 2-0 MAC) had to do was keep Eastern Michigan (3-3, 0-2 MAC) from gaining 80 yards in a minute and 19 seconds, and the Cardinals would secure the win and their first 2-0 start in Mid-American Conference play since 2013. With no timeouts remaining, the Eagles went to work.
Mike Glass completed a pass to Breck Turner for 11 yards. First down.
Glass to Dylan Drummond for 11 yards. First down.
Glass to Quian Williams for 13 yards. First down.
Glass to Arthur Jackson for 13 yards. First down.
Glass to Jackson again for 11 yards. First down.
At this point, the Eagles had made it 61 yards in exactly one minute. Only 19 yards to go with 19 seconds left.
Glass lofted the ball to Jackson in the left corner of the end zone. He caught it, but sophomore cornerback A.J. Uzodinma pushed him just enough so part of his foot landed out of bounds.
Third down, 14 seconds to go. Glass takes another shot to the end zone, this time falling just out of reach of a diving Mathew Sexton.
Fourth down, eight seconds left. Glass takes the snap and drops back. He looks right, looks left and fires. But when his arm came through, the ball was already falling to the ground. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Williams had got his hand on it. It was a fumble. Uzodinma recovered it, and after one last kneel to the ground, Ball State escaped with a 29-23 victory.
“The defense did a great job at the end, bending, not breaking and causing a huge play on fourth down,” head coach Mike Neu said. “The see us be able to take the field in victory formation … very proud of the guys, great effort.”
The game served as payback for the Cardinals. Last year, Eastern Michigan came into Scheumann Stadium and won on Ball State’s Homecoming game. This time around, it was the Cardinals who played spoiler on the Eagles’ Homecoming.
Ball State was down at the half, same as last week at Northern Illinois where the Cardinals came back and won. Neu said the players’ attitude never faltered.
“We had been there before,” Neu said. “Obviously, we’re not trying to repeat that formula, but it certainly says a lot about this football team when you just continue to fight, especially on the road because it’s our family, and our friends and it’s us. There’s not a lot of people here that are in our favor.”
The win improved Ball State to 2-0 against MAC opponents. The Cardinals did it this week using a similar strategy to their win over Northern Illinois last week: a steady dose of junior running back Caleb Huntley.
Huntley, who ran the ball 35 times for 157 yards against the Huskies, nearly matched his performance from a week ago with 29 carries and 152 yards.
The only difference seemed to be that Ball State was able to put together a complete game on offense. The Cardinals’ passing game was able to complement the rushing attack Saturday, whereas they completed just four passes last week.
Redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt finished Saturday with 255 passing yards and four total touchdowns — two through the air and two goal-line quarterback sneaks.
The Cardinal defense also stepped up, recording three sacks, three interceptions and the game-clinching forced fumble at the end.
“When we can bring our own juice, our own energy — I thought the sideline was fantastic,” Neu said. “We found a way. That’s the most important thing.”
With Ball State’s win and Toledo’s loss, the Cardinals are now atop the MAC West Division standings. They will look to make it three wins in a row Saturday, Oct. 19 in front of its own Homecoming crowd against the Rockets.