Ball State cruised into halftime with a 17-point lead behind an offense that scored points on four straight drives. However, Central Michigan put up 34 points in the second half on five rushing touchdowns, stunning the Cardinals, 45-44.
Despite the Chippewas sneaking away with the one-point win, Ball State firmly had control for the majority of the game. The evening started out slow with six total points scored in the first quarter. Then, an offensive explosion ensued for the last 45 minutes.
“We started to settle down, and started to execute, and we had good balance, and we were mixing it up well and we were able to finish some drives,” head coach Mike Neu said. “Late in the third and fourth quarter, it was back and forth, and we had the ball at the end and didn’t get it done.”
The highlight of the Cardinals’ offense was the running back duo of junior Caleb Huntley and graduate student Walter Fletcher. On the ground, they combined for 221 yards. Huntley had a big 32-yard gain that kick started the Cardinals’ offense on the second drive of the day, and he ended up with 106 total yards.
Huntley has rushed for 100 yards in five of his last six conference games and is now in the top 10 all time for rushing yards in Ball State history.
“It makes me feel very good, but it’s not what I want to be remembered for when I leave here,” Huntley said. “I want to be remembered as somebody who contributed to a winning team, and hopefully we can win out on these last two games and get to a bowl game.”
Fletcher gained 39 yards on a checkdown pass and also had the longest run of the game with a 49-yard scamper. Fletcher finished with 154 total yards.
The Cardinals’ passing game, led by redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt, was also firing on all cylinders. Plitt had three touchdowns with 268 passing yards, hitting junior receiver Justin Hall once for 64 yards on a screen that Hall took to the house and again on an 11-yard score just before halftime.
“I have no doubt that anybody I go to is going to make a play, no matter what kind of game they are having,” Plitt said. “I have complete confidence in every one of my guys, and I just go out there to have fun and let them do their job.”
That is exactly what Plitt did. He got everyone on the offense involved early and attempted to keep the lead while Central capitalized on some key penalties.
Redshirt senior receiver Riley Miller caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Plitt and made an incredible catch on a 42-yard bomb that set up one of Hall’s touchdowns. Miller finished with 67 total yards.
Sophomore receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler got his game going with a 22-yard catch and also got an important 8-yard first down that led to a field goal.
In the end, despite their second-highest-scoring game of conference play, the Cardinals’ effort came up one point short.
Ball State will finish its season with a game on the road at Kent State then host Miami (Ohio).