Ball State traveled to Ypsilanti, Michigan to face Eastern Michigan in the Cardinals’ second Mid-American Conference (MAC) matchup of the season.
With both competing teams coming off of two straight losses, this was a chance for one of them to get back on track. After all four quarters, that was not the case for the Cardinals.
Here are three takeaways from Ball State’s 24-10 loss to Eastern Michigan.
Self-inflicted wounds continue to torture Ball State
After failing to convert on fourth and two on their first drive, the Cardinals’ (1-5, 0-2 MAC) defense took the field for the first time on Saturday afternoon. While Eastern Michigan (3-3, 1-1 MAC) was driving, Ball State started to stall the Eagles.
However, senior linebacker Sidney Houston Jr. was flagged for a late hit. This gave the Eagles extra yardage and allowed them to work their way into field goal range. Even though the Cardinals didn’t give up a touchdown, the Eagles were successful on a 53-yard field goal.
A few drives later, a pass interference call on the Cardinals set up a big opportunity for the Eastern Michigan offense. On the following play, the Eagles scored on a touchdown pass.
Other mistakes like a fumble by redshirt sophomore wide receiver Qian Magwood and more penalties all went against Ball State’s momentum. The Cardinals went into halftime with five penalties that cost them 41 yards.
The second half was more of the same for the Cardinals. Blown coverage, a penalty for hitting the returner on a fair catch, and poor execution on offense all impacted the outcome of the game.
Eastern Michigan's passing game
The Eagles have relied on the run game for the most part in the 2023 campaign. However, that changed today as junior starting quarterback Austin Smith found a rhythm that lasted the entire contest.
During the first half, Smith quickly became a problem for the Ball State defense as he went 13-for-17 with 111 passing yards and a touchdown pass.
Ball State tried different ways to limit Smith, but it was to no avail. He added another touchdown pass in the second half.
Part of Smith’s success was due to the Ball State defense. Most of the quarterback's completions went to receivers who had open space and time to make a play.
He finished the game going 18-for-28 with 192 passing yards and two touchdown passes.
Ball State could not find momentum in the second half
After halftime, the weather became a factor as rain started to fall. And when that happened, the negative play began to pour on the Cardinals.
Entering the third quarter, Ball State only trailed by seven. The Ball State faithful may have thought this was something positive, but instead, the Cardinals could not find ways to improve on that. With only 45 yards of offense, they failed to find a rhythm in the period.
The Cardinals did have a chance to score with five minutes left in the game. But after an incomplete pass and a failed pass play on fourth down, Ball State turned it over on downs.
Yet, the negative play wasn't just on the offensive side of the ball. The Ball State defense struggled to stall the Eagles and could not find ways to get the Cardinal offense back on the field.
While there were some positive aspects on defense, the negatives led to Ball State falling in their second MAC game.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at email@example.com or on X @ZachCarter85.