In the last game of the season, on senior day, Ball State football lost to Miami 15-17.
The Cardinals showcased 25 seniors on the day, welcoming families to the field to honor their time spent in a Ball State uniform.
The game from the kick was a roller coaster of highs and lows for each team. Here are four takeaways from the game.
First drive success
Facing one of the best-run defenses in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Ball State was able to march down the field and score on their first drive.
During the drive, the success of the run offense saw the Cardinals go 94 yards on nine plays. The running game accounted for 68 yards out of the 94 total yards in the drive.
Although it was the running game that got Ball State into the red zone, it was a pass that put a touchdown on the board. The nine-yard pass from redshirt sophomore Kiael Kelly to redshirt sophomore Vaughn Pemberton put the Cardinals up 0-6 early in the game. Kelly was 4-for-4 during the drive through the air.
The offense saw no third downs as well on the whole drive. When the Cardinals are able to score on the opening drive to set the tone – win or lose – Ball State is able to have a little momentum to go off of.
Cooper reaches 1,000 rushing yards
Redshirt junior running back Marquez Cooper has rushed over 1,000 yards in the past two seasons. Today, he needed 93 yards to make it his third season in a row.
After the first 20 minutes of play, Cooper had 80 yards on 15 attempts. His long was a 23-yard rush where he was only one defender away from taking it to the house for a long gain.
Bouncing outside to the right, a seven-yard rush with seven minutes left in the third quarter pushed Cooper across the 1,000 mark.
With over 100 rushing yards, it also marked the 17th time in his career that he has rushed over 100 yards in a game. Cooper finished with 136 rushing yards.
Time and time again, head coach Mike Neu has stressed that to win the game, it more than likely is going to come down to the turnover battle. In the end, the turnover battle was a tie, but the Ball State offense was unable to capitalize on those opportunities.
The first turnover came from Kelly, who lofted it right into the hands of a Miami RedHawk, setting Miami up with only 21 yards left to the end zone.
Just two plays later, redshirt sophomore quarterback Aveon Smith completed a pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Cade McDonald for 10 yards. Putting Miami up 7-6.
The second turnover was another interception from Kelly. Though it was just an interception from the offense, the defense was able to set up the offense with a fourth and one stop. The stop was able to set up Ball State on the 50-yard line. After gaining 22 yards, the interception created a ‘what could have been’ moment for the Cardinals.
The long return set Miami up on their own 28-yard line and ended in a field goal. Although it did not result in a touchdown, any points in the low-scoring affair are major points.
Although the Cardinals threw two interceptions, Ball State also forced two interceptions in the game. It was their first interception since week three of the season.
Although Ball State had two picks, one interception came from redshirt senior Cole Pearce. The former walk-on linebacker now a key starter for the Cardinals racked up his first interception of the season. Just yards away from the quarterback, Pearce jumped up and snagged the ball, pulling it down.
Pearce, or as teammates call him “40,” once again showed up in a major way for the Ball State defense.
The pick set up Ball State on their own 22-yard line. Down two points, only 22 yards stood between the Cardinals and a senior day win.
With the game on the line, Kiael Kelly took it to the house, only to be called back due to a holding penalty. The kick attempt that could have put Ball State up 18-17, was blocked.
As Miami entered victory formation just few plays later, sealing the win for the RedHawks.
The Cardinals fall to 4-8 on the season and 3-5 in the MAC to end their season.
Contact Elijah Poe via email at email@example.com or on X @ElijahPoe4.