Ball State (1-3, 0-1 MAC) could not overcome its injuries along the offensive line in its 22-12 loss against Toledo (2-2, 1-0 MAC) Saturday afternoon.
In their first Mid-American Conference game of the season, the Cardinals allowed four sacks to the Rockets. With redshirt-fifth year offensive lineman Curtis Blackwell and redshirt junior offensive lineman Jaylen Turner injured, Ball State had to make a variety of changes.
Redshirt sophomore offensive line Damon Kaylor moved inside to guard, while redshirt freshman Corey Stewart made his first career start at right tackle. Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Porter Haught filled in at opposite guard in Turner’s absence. In light of the changes, head coach Mike Neu is confident in offensive line coach Collin Johnson to stabilize things.
“He (Colin) does a great job, he's a great communicator and teacher,” Neu said. “(He) works hard with those guys and he moves them around. He does a great job of training our guys in multiple spots. Things are going to happen, they’ll have some injuries that take place as part of the game. When they do happen, you’ve got to be ready to go. It was an athletic, fast defensive line that we played today, so I thought our guys competed to have a chance to come back.”
Redshirt fifth-year quarterback Drew Plitt threw 190 yards on 21-of-35 passing. Neu believes Plitt can help the offensive line and avoid sacks in certain moments.
“I have a chance to go back and watch the tape, the quarterback has to do his part as well,” Neu said. “There's a timing element to every passing play that you have, and you’ve got to make sure that you throw the ball in rhythm and on time.”
Redshirt fifth-year wide receiver Justin Hall became Ball State’s all-time leader in receiving yards with an eight-yard catch in the second quarter. The previous record was held by Dante Ridgeway (2001-2004), who tallied 3,030 yards in three seasons for the Cardinals. Hall finished with 161 yards from scrimmage. Although he’s not with the offensive lineman often, Hall encourages them every opportunity he has.
“Every chance I get to talk to those guys, I go down there and make sure their heads are up and their confidence is good,” Hall said. “(I) tell them forget about that drive, (we’re) on to the next drive. We’re going to put some numbers up, so basically next play mentality.”
Toledo used a two-quarterback system, paced by sophomore Carson Bradley and redshirt freshman Dequan Finn. Bradley threw for 144 yards, including a 69-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Devin Maddox for the first touchdown of the game.Finn spearheaded the Rockets rushing attack with 123 yards on 12 carries. In the first play of the second quarter, Finn rushed 70-yards on a third down to give the Rockets a 14-6 lead. Junior linebacker Clayton Coll finished with a team-high 15 tackles, including six individually. Coll credits the Cardinals preparation for their performance against each quarterback.
“Quarterbacks is a position you don’t really typically see rotated in and out,” Coll said. “Difficulty wise, it just came back to our week of prep, watching film and listening to what the coaches had to say and kind of how you go from there.”
The Cardinals return to Scheumann Stadium Oct. 2 against Army (4-0). Kickoff is 5 p.m.