BY: DONNIE HARMON
Ball State Sports Link
Wide receiver Justin Hall, Ball State’s leader in career receptions (257 entering Thursday), as well as the career receptions leader amongst active NCAA players, had all eyes on him entering Thursday night’s season opener against Western Illinois.
The dynamic super-senior put on a show in Scheumann Stadium, finishing with eight receptions for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as four carries for 13 yards.
Ball State’s coaching staff made getting Hall touches a point of emphasis early on in the game. On the first offensive play of the game for Ball State, Hall took a direct snap and ran the ball, and while the play amounted to a loss of a yard, it established that the Cardinals were going to use a variety of ways to get the ball in the hands of their most dynamic playmaker.
It did not take long before Hall struck gold. After a stagnant start on the offensive side of the ball, on the second possession, Hall got behind the Western Illinois coverage, catching a picture perfect pass from quarterback Drew Plitt in stride, scoring from 49 yards out to give the Cardinals their first points of the 2021 campaign.
Hall added five more catches before the half, bringing his total to six in the first half, which is nothing new for the high volume receiver.
While he did make one mistake, a fumble that gave Western Illinois the ball in plus territory, his impact in the first half vastly outweighed that one mistake.
Hall made what was possibly the biggest play of the game for Ball State in the third quarter. After Western Illinois wideout Dennis Houston took a screen pass 75 yards to the house, tying the game at 14, momentum had seemingly shifted towards the FCS school’s upset bid.
However, on the ensuing possession, Hall slipped past the opposing secondary once again, catching a deep ball and scoring from 48 yards out, a near repeat from his touchdown from the first quarter.
After controlling the second half and winning 31-21, Ball State extended their winning streak to eight games, which is the third longest in the FBS currently. That streak will be put on the line as the Cardinals head to Happy Valley next Saturday to take on a ranked Penn State team. Hall will look to lead Ball State to an upset victory, in what will be one of the biggest challenges of his career.