Through 60 minutes, the Cardinals offense was held to 4.15 yards per play.
Ball State (1-1, 0-0 MAC) fell to Penn State (2-0, 1-0 BIG10) 44-13 Saturday afternoon. On third downs, the Cardinals managed to go 4-of-16. Head Coach Mike Neu thought the Nittany Lions defense was as good as advertised.
“It was a great challenge for us.” Neu said. “We knew that going in. I knew they were a good defense, had talent. Coach (James) Franklin and his staff have definitely done a great job of recruiting.”
Fifth-year quarterback Drew Plitt finished 25-of-39 for 176 yards and two interceptions. Wide receiver Jayshon Jackson led the Cardinals in receiving with four receptions for 42 yards. Neu believes the Penn State secondary provided a great challenge for the Cardinals passing attack.
“They did a good job of mixing it up,” Neu said. “They made it tough on our guys, whether we're in normal splits or lined up out wide. They were challenging us at the line of scrimmage, press coverage at times. They’re talented, if you look out there on the field and see the length of the corners, the size of the safeties. It’s a good group, good unit on the backend.”
With under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Ball State scored its first touchdown of the game by virtue of freshman running back Carson Steele. Steele carried the ball left for a six-yard rush, to cut the Nittany Lions lead to 37-13. Fifth-year offensive lineman Curtis Blackwell believes the offensive line can learn important lessons from this experience.
“I think it has to start with me,” Blackwell said. “I have to take an individual look at myself and watch the film and see the things that I don't do well, and correct those. If you do that as a unit, I think we'll have a lot better results and results that we want next week. I know our team is going to take that approach."
Fifth-year defensive back Bryce Cosby led the Cardinals in tackles (11). He recorded eight solo and two for loss, but is more concerned about how the entire defense can improve.
“I just try to go out there and give my best effort, any game, it doesn’t matter what game it is,” Cosby said. “I try to go out there and do whatever it takes to help my team get a win, and that didn’t happen today. We just have to fix the things on defense, I feel like we could’ve tackled better. The biggest thing is just to learn from this and cleaning up some of the miscues on defense.”
For the Nittany Lions, senior quarterback Sean Clifford accumulated 311 yards from scrimmage on 21-of-29 passing. He finished with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). Junior wide receiver Jahan Dotson spearheaded the Penn State passing offense with five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Noah Cain led Penn State with 68 rushing yards on 20 carries.
The Cardinals continue their road stand Sept. 18 against Wyoming (2-0, 0-0 MWC). Kickoff is 4 p.m.