BY DONNIE HARMON | Ball State Sports Link
It was the biggest game of the year for Ball State last Saturday, with the Cardinals facing a 4-1 Western Michigan team at home, with the winner punching its ticket to the Mid-American Conference Championship game.
Ball State’s motto this year has been Detroit or Bust, and with the season’s aspirations on the line, Justin Hall delivered the best performance of his storied collegiate career.
The senior from Douglasville, Georgia, was named to the All-MAC First Team Tuesday. He ranks second in the league with 44 catches and 620 receiving yards.
The nation’s active leader and the Ball State career record holder with 252 career receptions, Hall has three touchdowns receiving and one rushing this season. He ranks fourth in the country with 178.8 all-purpose yards per game.
The senior wide receiver was electric against Western Michigan, guiding Ball State to a come-from-behind 30-27 victory, posting a career high 175 receiving yards on 10 receptions, with two touchdowns to go along with that.
With this performance, Hall has moved into first place as Ball State’s career receptions leader with 252 catches, surpassing KeVonn Mabon (244).
The Ball State offense made getting Hall the pigskin a point of emphasis early on. On the second drive starting at the WMU 40-yard line, Hall caught back-to-back screen passes, taking them for a total of 33 yards, setting up a rushing touchdown by Tye Evans.
While Hall has been incredibly productive throughout the season, heading into this week he had not found his way into the end zone since Week 1. That changed in the second quarter, as Hall burned the Bronco coverage for a 32-yard touchdown to knot up the score at 13 apiece.
Hall was a consistent presence throughout the game. In the third quarter, which was a bit quieter for him, he still had two big plays: A 17-yard run, which was the longest of the game for the Cardinals, and an explosive 26- yard reception.
The biggest play of the game for Hall came in the fourth quarter. Trailing 27-19, Ball State had the ball back, and on the first play they called a screen pass to Hall.
After slipping through several players at the line of scrimmage, Hall showed off his speed as he sprinted down the sideline, before cutting back across the field at the 20 and taking it into the end zone.
The ensuing 2-point conversion tied the game up.
Hall finished with 10 receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two carries for 17 yards.
It was always Detroit or Bust this season for Ball State, and in large part due to the efforts of Hall, the Cardinals are headed there Friday.
Ball State visits Ford Field Friday night to face off with an undefeated Buffalo squad for the MAC Championship.