By: Donnie Harmon
Ball State Sports Link
Heading into week five, Ball State was in need of a win. Following a three game skid, the preseason MAC favorites were staring down an undefeated Army football team and their daunting triple option offense.
With Army’s offense being known for both its ability to control the ball and inability to pass, it was obvious what Ball State needed to do to pull off the upset; take an early lead and make Army play from behind. The Cardinals were able to do just that thanks to the efforts from Justin Hall, the newly cemented career-receptions leader at Ball State.
In need of a fast start, Hall delivered in a big way for the Cardinals, as he found a seam in the Black Knight’s kick coverage and took the opening kickoff 99 yards to the house to give Ball State a jolt of energy right out of the gates.
“To get it started with a touchdown like that, and right out of the gate established great momentum, great excitement, great buzz,” head coach Mike Neu said following the win.
While the kick return set the tone early for the Cardinals, Hall also continued to perform at his usual high level in the passing game throughout, as he finished with seven receptions for 78 yards. He was very productive early, and his involvement helped the offense get out to an early rhythm.
On the second drive for the Cardinals offense, with the team already up 14-0, Hall made crucial plays to lead the offense on their first real extended drive. Hall had his longest catch of the game on the drive, which went for 16 yards. He also made a critical catch on 3rd and 10 that went for 15 yards, allowing the drive to continue, which would end with a Carson Steele touchdown run.
Hall’s early contributions helped Ball State gain a 21-0 lead over Army in the first quarter, something that was not expected entering the game. Hall continued to produce throughout the first half, adding four more catches for 38 yards before heading into the locker room with a 21-14 lead.
While Hall had a quiet second half as other players stepped up, the final score ended up being 28-16, meaning that the first 21 points scored by the Cardinals ended up being too much for Army to overcome.
In what will be a long season, the opening kickoff return for a touchdown by Hall could end up being the most important play of the season, as it allowed Ball State to get Army out of their comfort zone early and make them play from behind in a game that Ball State needed to win to get back on the right track and build momentum going forward.
Hall and the Cardinals will look to carry the momentum into their next game, when they travel up to Kalamazoo to take on Western Michigan on Saturday.