It was a balanced attack for Ball State Football (4-3, 2-1 MAC) in its 38-31 win over Eastern Michigan (4-3, 1-2 MAC). The Cardinals threw for 233 yards and rushed for 206.
Fifth-year senior wide receiver Justin Hall led Ball State with two rushing touchdowns, while also receiving a team-high 58 yards.
“That is Justin [Hall],” head coach Mike Neu said. “The challenge every week is how we can get the ball in his hands. That is the goal because he is a tremendous football player. Can we get it to him receiving? Can we get it to him rushing, whether it is on the jet sweep or in the backfield?”
Neu gave credit to offensive coordinator Kevin Lynch for his playcalling and was pleased with how the offense stayed steady through the entirety of the game.
It wasn’t just Hall who helped the offense succeed, freshman running back Carson Steele rushed for a career-high 140 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt senior Will Jones also ran for 47 yards and a touchdown.
“Credit our staff,” Neu said. “Credit them to be able to recruit some talented young men. From an offensive standpoint, we were able to utilize them and make the defense defend the entire field. Not just the running backs or the receivers, the tight ends got in on the action today. We have good playmakers, we believe in our weapons and getting the ball in their hands.”
Along with Ball State’s success running the ball, they had six receivers with over 25 yards. Junior wide receiver Jayshon Jackson was second on the Cardinals with 57 receiving yards and even stepped back to throw a 26-yard pass to Steele on the first play of the game.
“It was a pretty awesome throw he had on the first play of the game,” Neu said. “For him to step up there on the first play of the game. He has been a great addition to our program. He is a tremendous route runner. He had a huge catch on third down with the dig route. That was money. He comes up with a lot of big plays and is a smart football player.”
Steele said when that many receivers are getting open and players like Hall are able to succeed with jet sweeps, it helps give him a break and opens up the offense for him to break open for a big run.
“It definitely gives us a break at running back,” Steele said. “Justin, Yo’Heinz [Tyler] and all of the receivers are phenomenal athletes. I always look and watch, and they seem to always break one or two tackles. It is cool to watch them and it gives me a bit of break.”
Defensively, graduate safety J.T. Wahee had an interception and said the offense fires up the defense and special teams when they have a positive performance.
“It is good for the team in general,” Wahee said. “Having guys step up like that offensively helps the whole team and we feed off of that out on defense and special teams as well.”