If you showed up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to watch the two highest-scoring offenses in the Mid-American Conference go at it, you got your money’s worth. The game was reminiscent of the same matchup between Ball State and Western Michigan a year ago in Muncie where the teams were tied at 35 after regulation. The Cardinals walked away with a 42-41 victory in overtime.
Tuesday, it was the Broncos (6-4, 4-2 MAC) who got the best of the Cardinals (4-5, 3-2 MAC), 35-31.
While the points came in bunches, they didn’t come by way of air. Western Michigan quarterback Jon Wassink and Ball State redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt entered the game averaging the most and third-most passing yards in the MAC, respectively. Tuesday, they combined for 272 without a single passing touchdown.
Wassink actually made an early impact with his legs with a career-long rush of 60 yards on the first drive of the day to set the Broncos up for a score. On the fifth play of the second quarter, he ran 46 yards to the end zone, giving him a career-high 106 rushing yards after just two carries.
Wassink’s play led the Broncos to a 21-10 halftime lead.
Senior wide receiver Malik Dunner must have went into the locker room and watched film of Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the second half of the 2013 Super Bowl. The Cardinal offense was slated to take the field to start the second half, but it didn’t have to because Dunner took the kickoff 100 yards to the end zone to reduce the gap to four points.
Following that return, the running game picked up.
Western Michigan’s Levante Bellamy, the conference’s leading rusher, had just 50 yards at the break. Ball State junior running back Caleb Huntley, who rushed for more than 115 yards in his last three full games played, had 12.
Bellamy went on to run for 157 yards and three scores, extending his Football Bowl Subdivision-leading total to 20 touchdowns. Huntley finished the game with an average of 6.7 yards per carry and a total of 120 yards.
"Obviously, the formula for us in the second half has really been doing a good job running the football," Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. "We were very physical. We were finishing drives."
The Cardinals took their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter, and it changed hands three more times afterwards. The Broncos’ touchdown with just over a minute to play proved to be enough to come away with a win and earn bowl eligibility.
"We're all we got," Neu said. "We fought our tail off. We got to get back in here and learn from the tape ... Every week gets tougher in this league, and our guys got to continue to fight."
Western Michigan’s win puts it atop the MAC West standings and bumps Ball State down to third. The Cardinals’ next game is Saturday, Nov. 16 at home against Central Michigan.