By: Donnie Harmon
Ball State Sports Link
It was a big win for the Ball State football team on Tuesday, as the Cardinals clinched bowl eligibility in a rematch of last year’s MAC conference championship against Buffalo. While the game last year featured plenty of offense, this game was the opposite, as the Cardinals were able to win behind a dominant defensive performance, with the final score being 20 to 3.
At the forefront of the dominant Ball State defense was Jaylin Thomas. The Redshirt-Senior inside linebacker finished the game with 14 tackles, while also coming away with an interception and a pass breakup.
While Buffalo actually outgained Ball State in total yards, Thomas and the defense made all the plays they needed to when it counted most, primarily when Buffalo had it in Ball State territory. On the Bulls first drive they had it in Ball State territory, but had it intercepted after being forced into a 3rd and long when Thomas assisted on a tackle on a quarterback run.
Thomas was a menace on run defense all game long, as he consistently came up to make plays, limiting Buffalo’s success on the ground. On one sequence in the second quarter, Thomas made three straight tackles on short runs to force 4th and 1, and while Buffalo was barely able to reach the first down marker on the next play, Thomas was in on the tackle for the fourth straight play.
As good as Thomas was against the run, he was equally as effective at his position in pass defense. He was able to stop receivers from breaking big plays by making tackles, as well as playing solid coverage throughout the game. The biggest play of the game from Thomas came in the fourth quarter. With Buffalo having the ball at the BSU 49 with a 1st and 10, Thomas read a pass in the middle of the field and made the interception, returning it 23 yards.
While this win over Buffalo is not quite as meaningful as last year’s victory over the Bull’s, it still means a ton to Thomas and this Ball State team, as it means the Cardinals are bowl eligible. After the game, Thomas said
“All the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve put into this program, on and off the field, to be able to go bowling, it’s just a great feeling. It don’t matter where we go, because we know we’re going to be there together, and that’s the highlight of our experience, is us being there and creating memories.”
The seniors went out strong at Scheumann, as it was the last home game for them. Thomas and the rest of the seniors will have to wait to find out their bowl game invitation, where they will cap off their college careers.