BY MASON PLUMMER | Lead Writer | Ball State Sports Link
A dominant first quarter was just about all Ball State needed on New Year’s Eve, as it took down No. 19 San Jose State, 34-13.
Ball State recorded back-to-back wins over ranked opponents for the first time in program history. Both opponents had previously been undefeated.
Ball State came out firing on all cylinders, scoring touchdowns on its first three offensive possessions. By the time the second quarter had begun, the Cards held a lopsided 27-0 lead over the stunned Spartans of San Jose State.
“I’m so proud of our football team and the effort that’s been put in week in and week out,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “It’s high-character men doing things the right way. We got here because of hard work. We embraced the underdog role, and we came out with a purpose. We wanted to seize the moment, and we’ve done that.”
The first touchdown of the game came on the defensive side of the ball on the very first possession for either side. Ball State star cornerback Antonio Phillips jumped the Spartan receiver’s route and took it the other way for a pick-six on the first SJSU drive of the game.
The 53-yard interception and return — the first for Phillips in his career — sparked an already energetic Ball State team that finished with four total interceptions on the day. Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton dialed up a perfect game plan to thwart a prolific San Jose State offense.
It didn’t take long for Ball State to strike again. BSU took over at the 50 and scored again, with Will Jones running into the end zone from 3-yards out. Tye Evans later added a 3-yard TD run of his own to make it a 20-0 game.
The Ball State “D” tallied five tackles for loss and only allowed one touchdown throughout the entire game, with the other Spartans’ score coming on a kickoff return for a touchdown early in the second half.
Senior safety Bryce Cosby was back to his usual best Thursday afternoon, causing problems all day long for the San Jose State quarterbacks. Cosby tallied a team-high nine total tackles and had a key interception to end a Spartan drive that looked sure to end with a touchdown.
“We knew we had the opportunity to do something special here. We bought in as a team,” Cosby said. “We could’ve gotten complacent after the conference championship win, but the coaches did a great job keeping us locked in. We came out and executed. I love these guys, and I’m proud of the way we played.”
Without Justin Hall and Caleb Huntley, Ball State still rallied to score 34 points and tally over 400 yards of total offense. Quarterback Drew Plitt was cool, calm and confident as always, racking up 217 yards on 12-of-19 passing and two total touchdowns.
Plitt was named the Arizona Bowl offensive player of the game, while Cosby earned the Bowl’s defensive player of the game.
The Ball State running game controlled the Arizona Bowl and left Mountain West Champion San Jose State defense gassed and without answers.
The three-headed attack of Evans, Jones and Donny Marcus combined for 183 yards on the ground, including many tough conversions to keep the BSU offense on the field.
Marcus, who had five carries for 13 yards on the season entering the day, ran 10 times for a career-high 69 yards. Jones ran for a career-high 89 yards and his second of the season and the third of his career. Evans added his second TD this season.
With Thursday’s win, the Ball State Cardinals handed formerly undefeated San Jose State its first loss since Nov. 23, 2019 against UNLV.
Ball State extended its winning streak to seven games and it picked up two trophies in doing so — a MAC Championship and a bowl victory, the first in school history.
“All season we kept saying, ‘The job’s not finished.’ Well, the job is now finished,” Neu said. “We are so excited to bring a bowl win back to Muncie.”