By Dane Massey | Sports Link
MUNCIE Ind — It was another thrilling victory for the Cardinals in front of their home crowd on Saturday, as the Cardinals defeated Uconn in another wild comeback 25-21. Ball State now sits with a 4-3 record on the season and finished non-conference play with a 2-2 record.
With the win over UConn, the Cardinals increases their winning streak to three, as well as earning their fourth victory in their last five matchups. The Cardinals also sit with a 3-1 home record and have won their last three home games.
The thrilling victory this time around came with Ball State shutting down the Huskies in the second half, scoring 15 unanswered points and forcing two turnovers (an interception and a fumble) to cap off another comeback win for the Cardinals.
“Hat is off to our players, they deserve all the credit for the fight..,” head coach Mike Neu said. “I think what needs to be talked about more than anything else is just the character of our football team, the leadership of our football team, the fight of our football team because those are huge wins.. that speaks a lot about the character of this football team.”
Ball State getting its third win in a row means a lot of good came out of this weekend, however, there are still some negatives that the Cardinals should be addressed.
The defense finally came together against UConn and showed what it has in store for us for the rest of the season.
Ball State dominated UConn in the second half, forcing an interception on Uconn’s opening drive of the second half. The Huskies never got close to the red zone as theyre longest drive in the second half was only 12 yards. UConn punted the ball four times in the ball game while Ball State only punted the ball once.
Huskies quarterback Zion Turner finished the day with 129 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. However most of those yards came in the first half (44 of his 129 yards came in the second half). Turner was also sacked four times during the contest.
As for the offense, sophomore runningback Carson Steele shine the brightest, rushing for a career high 179 yards and three touchdowns off of just 32 carries, including a highlight-reel 17-yard run as he dove over the pylon to make seal the win for Ball State in the end. The leading rusher in the MAC is just shy of 1,000 yards with 789.
Let’s start with this, the offense was a bit sluggish this time around.
Despite Carson Steele’s career game, the rest of the offense struggled to produce.
Quarterback John Paddock and the passing game struggled to get anything going. Paddock only threw for 149 yards and an interception. Although UConn’s Zion Turner did not have an amazing performance as well (the numbers were very similar to Paddock’s), Turner did end up throwing two touchdown passes to end the day.
Although the win streak is nice going into conference play, the stretch the Cardinals have going forward will be a challenge for them. The Cardinals start off with West Division rival Eastern Michigan. From there the Cardinals go on a challenging road trip, first to Kent State, the runner-ups from last years MAC Championship. Next, to Toledo for a possible battle as to who will rule the MAC West.
The Cardinals then return home to battle the top quarterback in the Mid-American Conference Kurtis Rourke and Ohio. They then finish up the regular season against Miami (OH) on the road.
Now comebacks are wild and they sure are a thrilling way to win, however for the last three games it looked like Ball State squeaked out the three game win streak by the skin of their teeth.
The last four matchups the Cardinals have been in have come down to the wire and point wise have been very close, seven points or less. For the teams coming up, a comeback will be a hail marry. All of Ball State’s remaining opponents have very talented rosters and they will hold Ball State short of any comback. The Cardinals will need to hold a lead and bring their best performances forward in order to have a shot at another MAC Championship.
Ball State returns home this Saturday (Oct. 22) to take on Eastern Michigan. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. with the game being broadcast live on ESPNU. Follow along with @bsusportslink for more updates.