For the first time since 2015, Ball State football faced Bowling Green, making it the first time that head coach Mike Neu faced off against the Falcons.
It was also the first midweek MACtion game for the Cardinals, a series that finds Ball State playing Mid-American Conference (MAC) opponents during the week.
Ball State was defeated 24-21, with freshman kicker Jackson Courville just nearly missing the 52-yard field goal falling short of the tie. The 2-7 Cardinals are now eliminated from bowl eligibility.
In their first scoring drive, Ball State led a methodical drive that saw redshirt sophomore Kiael Kelly punch it in from six yards out.
The drive was saved a couple of times by Kelly. First, when a roughing the passer was called on the Falcons, giving Ball State a first down. The second was on a fourth and five where he was able to evade pressure, finding freshman tight end Christian Abney to move the chains.
After the fourth down completion, the Cardinals slowly chipped away with short gains, leading into the endzone.
The drive as a whole ate up 8:37 minutes and amounted to 17 plays and 74 yards. It was also able to answer a 7-0 deficit by tying things up 7-7.
At the end of the first half, Ball State was controlling the time of possession by nearly seven minutes.
First half mistakes
Even if the Cardinals only found themselves down seven after the first half, there were some costly mistakes in the half that could have swung in Ball State’s favor.
The first turnover was a fumble by Kelly. While rushing for a first down, Kelly coughed up the ball and was recovered by the Falcons. This fumble resulted in a touchdown from Bowling Green.
The second turnover was an attempted completion to redshirt junior Marquez Cooper and ended up being a backward pass, once again falling into a Falcons' hands. The very next play for Bowling Green resulted in a 54-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Terion Stewart.
Other notable mistakes were broken coverage by the secondary, either resulting in a Falcons touchdown or resulting in a big first down.
Although the scoreboard was just a one-score game, it almost felt like Ball State was hanging on by strings and luck going into the locker room for halftime.
It was a game of mixed emotions for the defense, with some plays being able to hold at big moments, and others just falling short in coverage and letting up big plays.
Diving deeper into Kelly’s third start
Coming off of a close loss against Toledo and a win against Central Michigan, Kelly started his third game of his career. Although today moved his record to 1-2, here are things noticed in the game.
Kelly finished with two touchdowns on the night, both of them were rushing but one of them came with a 44-yard rush to tie up the game at 21-21. He finished with 19 rushing attempts on the night and totaled for 90 yards.
Kelly was 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) through the air. He finished with 66 yards, with a long of 18 yards. He was also sacked three times.
Although at times the run-pass option (RPO) was effective at times, at other times it resulted in Kelly and Cooper being swarmed behind the line of scrimmage.
With the running game being Ball State’s calling card, it still was apparent that the Cardinals struggled to get the passing game started at any time.