Ball State football lost its sixth game of the season against Ohio University on senior night, falling 32-18 to the Bobcats who currently sit atop the Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Division. Here are three takeaways from the weeknight game.
Carson Steele’s presence, or lack thereof, influenced the Cardinals' loss to Ohio as the starting running back exited the game late in the first half and did not return. Before exiting the game, Steele rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries.
Without Steele in the Ball State backfield, the Cardinals only accumulated a total of -4 rushing yards on 2 rushing attempts in the final two frames. The Ohio defense was in the habit of blowing up the plays in the Ball State backfield, emphasized by the first Ball State drive of the second where the Bobcats forced a safety following a well-positioned punt.
The Cardinals’ slow start
The loss started at the beginning of the game after Ball State failed to capitalize on turnovers according to head coach Mike Neu. Ohio scored in quick succession in the second quarter and the Cardinals did not recover from it.
“We got a couple of opportunities, we had drives going, and to have two fumbles like that, that's tough because those are scoring opportunities,” Neu said. “You know, they got the ball coming out in the second half… It's tough when you get behind on a team like that. It makes it tough to come back because of the style of play and the way that they utilize it.”
The effective Bobcat offense
Led by redshirt junior quarterback Kurtis Rourke and redshirt freshman running back Sieh Bangura, the Bobcats' offense utilized a running back/quarterback option to not only confuse the linebackers on the rush but also the secondary. Rourke would take the snap, begin to run and read the defense before deciding to pitch it off to his running back or take it himself. He had 21 rushing yards off this scheme. Rourke found ways to get everyone involved in the offense as well with three receivers entering halftime with receiving yards in double figures.
With Rourke sidelined with an injury in the second half, Bangura kept up his fine form with backup quarterback redshirt sophomore CJ Harris, finishing with a career-best 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the night.