With a little over two minutes left, Ball State had the ball on its own 33-yard line with all three timeouts remaining.
A minute later, the Cardinals no longer had possession and were staring at their first loss since Sept. 25 against Toledo.
Ball State (4-4, 2-2 MAC) fell 24-17 against Miami-Ohio (4-4, 3-1 MAC) Saturday afternoon in the Red Bird Rivalry game.
After a missed 51-yard field goal from RedHawks freshman kicker Graham Nicholson, Ball State had an opportunity with two minutes and 10 seconds remaining to drive down the field and tie the game at 24 with a touchdown.
It took five plays for the Cardinals to march 48 yards and get to the opposite 19-yard line. Head Coach Mike Neu was pleased with the execution from the offense to start the drive.
“Everything was going well,” Neu said. “We spend a lot of time around here repping two minute drills in practice, and thought (we) really did a nice job executing that.”
On first down, redshirt fifth-year quarterback Drew Plitt dropped back and threw a ball to the corner. Redshirt junior safety Sterling Weatherford flew in and intercepted the ball.
“Obviously, there at the end, (we) threw a critical interception," Neu said. "The throw was, from my vantage point on the sidelines, in the far end zone here by our facility, so I didn't have a great great angle at it. 21 made a play that's all I can say right now without having a chance to go look at the tape.”
Plitt finished 22-of-34 for 227 yards and two touchdowns and a fumble lost. His first touchdown went to redshirt fifth-year wide receiver Justin Hall for six-yards. He connected with junior wide receiver Jayshon Jackson in the third quarter for his second touchdown. Jackson led the Cardinals with eight receptions for 121 yards, but had a second touchdown called back due to a holding penalty.
After scoring a combined 83 points in the last two games, Neu pointed out the turnovers and penalties for the 17-point performance.
“It starts with making sure that the self-inflicted wounds that took place tonight,” Neu said. “(We) can't have those when you're playing against tough teams and playing in these types of games. That's the first thing that you have to eliminate in order to give yourself a chance to win, and put more points on the board and certainly 17 points is not enough.”
The RedHawks were paced by sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert, who threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-24 passing. Redshirt senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson finished with a team-high 138 receiving yards on eight receptions.
“We knew there was a possibility that he (Gabbert) could play today,” redshirt fifth-year linebacker Brandon Martin said. “It’s just about execution on our part, in all three phases. You never want to hear a guy is that efficient offensively, but it's just about looking at those mistakes we made today and trying to get better from it.”
Junior linebacker Clayton Coll led the Cardinals with 11 tackles, including four solo. Redshirt fifth-year defensive back Bryce Cosby also recorded double-digit tackles (10).
Martin, who suffered a lower leg injury against Western Illinois Sept. 2, made his return. He finished with three tackles, and hopes the leadership and experience among the Cardinals roster helps them in the second half of the season.
“We've been here before,” Martin said. “A lot of our time here, a lot of these older guys, they've had to deal with a lot of adversity, we’ve had our backs against the wall a few times. Obviously we don't want to be in this position, but we know what it's like and we know what it's going to take to push forward and win out these last couple of games.”
The Cardinals return to action Nov. 2 on the road against Akron (2-6, 1-3 MAC). Kickoff is 7 or 7:30 p.m.