Indiana Forcing Turnovers Early
In Week 1, Ball State threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the opening possession against Georgia State. Saturday at Indiana, Ball State once again turned the ball over on its opening possession.
Ball State wide receiver Corey Lacanaria caught a pass for what appeared to be a third-down conversion for the Cardinals, only to be stripped from behind by Indiana’s leader on defense, Marcus Oliver.
Jonathan Crawford recovered the Lacanaria fumble for the Hoosiers. The fumble put Indiana in great field position on its first offensive possession, and it resulted in three points for the Hoosiers. Once again the Cardinals were pegged with a slow start to the game.
Indiana Takes Advantage
After a three-and-out on the next possession for the Ball State offense, Indiana struck again with a more vertical offensive approach.
Quarterback Richard Lagow and wide receiver Nick Westbrook hooked up with a 43-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field.
The wide receiver filled in for injured star Simmie Cobbs, and took advantage of the opportunity in the Hoosiers’ offense when he ran a post route toward the middle of the field, getting behind the Ball State secondary for the touchdown.
An excellent route came with possibly the best throw all day from the JUCO transfer quarterback who led Westbrook in stride perfectly. With the score, Indiana took a 10-0 lead over Ball State less than six minutes into the game.
James Gilbert’s Critical Fumble
On the third possession of the game starting with 8:23 remaining in the first quarter, the Ball State offense finally clicked, driving 70 yards in seven plays including a big 33-yard gainer to Lacanaria in the process.
With a momentum-changing drive looming on the Indiana 5-yard line, James Gilbert fought for extra yards on the Cardinals’ rush resulting in a fumble that gave the ball back to Indiana. The fumble once again was recovered by Crawford.
Although no points resulted from the turnover for the Indiana offense, the fumble was a play many fans point to as a turning point in the game. It also marked the second turnover on the day for the Ball State offense only nine minutes into the game.
Indiana Keeps Rolling
At the end of the first half the Cardinals were facing a 20-0 deficit, and things didn’t get any easier as Indiana had possession of the football coming out of the break.
On the second play of the second half, Westbrook sprinted up the sideline for a 79-yard touchdown to extend the Indiana lead to 27-0.
Lagow threw a simple screen pass out to Westbrook, who was able to produce the rest — racing Ball State defenders down the sideline.
Ball State safety Martez Hester took a wrong angle on the play attempting to go inside of the wide receiver block as Westbrook turned outside.
As a result, the backside safety Corey Hall lost the pursuit battle against Westbrook attempting to chase him down from the opposite side of the field.
The True Freshman Provides a Spark
Another Indiana field goal extended the lead to 30-0 with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter. With Ball State’s offense stuck in neutral, Mike Neu made the decision to turn the running back duties over to true freshman Malik Dunner who provided sparks of energy for the Cardinals’ offense.
Dunner received five carries on the possession for 36 yards. A 23-yard shifty run bouncing to the right sideline had the Ball State bench on their feet and Neu running down the sideline with emphatic fist pumps to congratulate his true freshman gem.
The first drive with Dunner in the backfield only resulted in a Morgan Hagee field goal, but the Cardinals found a way to provide energy for the offense still trailing the Hoosiers, 30-3.
Cardinal fans can expect to see more of Dunner moving forward. Just a year ago, the Cardinals didn’t hesitate to feature the then true freshman running back Gilbert heavily in the offense.
Dunner is considered to be a shifty receiving back for the Cardinals, and he has drawn high praise from the Ball State coaching staff throughout training camp.
Ball State Shifts the Momentum
The Cardinals settled on another Hagee field goal to cut the Indiana lead to 30-6 with 13:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
At this point it seemed all but over for Ball State, until Dedrick Cromartie broke through on a fourth-and-18 to block Indiana’s punt attempt.
The ball sputtered toward the Indiana end zone where, who else but Dunner recovered the ball and was able to run three yards into the end zone for a Ball State touchdown.
Ball State was close several times on punt attempts by the Hoosiers, but the punt return unit finally came through to block the punt for a touchdown recovery.
Ball State seemed to have life once again after the special teams success cut the Indiana lead to 17 points with 12:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Ball State Comeback Not Enough
The Cardinals received the ball back with 9:08 remaining on the Memorial Stadium clock down 30-13.
Riley Neal led the offense methodically down the field for a 15-play, 78-yard drive resulting in a leaping five-yard touchdown grab by Jordan Hogue.
It seemed to be too little, too late for Ball State as the long drive took six minutes off the clock forcing BSU to elect to try an onside kick with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter and down by 10.
Ball State was unable to recover the kick, giving Indiana the chance to simply run the clock all the way down to 34 seconds on its drive and make the final score 30-20.