BY CORY STACE | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
Ball State (2-1) held Eastern Kentucky (1-2) to only three rushing yards on 27 attempts in Saturday’s 41-14 win. The Cardinals totaled 14 tackles for loss, with 12 different players contributing, and eight sacks, led by Anthony Winbush with two. Here’s a look at several key plays in Week 3 for Ball State.
Off to a Quick Start
After a turnover on downs in the opening possession by Eastern Kentucky, Ball State was able to capitalize on its first offensive possession for the first time all season.
After a 10-play drive, Riley Neal rolled out left at the Colonels’ 3-yard line to hit Devin Reece running across the field for his first career touchdown reception.
The Cardinals were able to take a 7-0 lead early, marking the first time this season they have led at any point in a first half.
Neal Can Run Too
To Ball State’s delight, not much changed from possessions one and two offensively. Thanks to a “running into the kicker” penalty on Eastern Kentucky, the Cardinals were able to extend their drive down the field for a touchdown.
With a touchdown pass already in the books, Neal held onto a zone read option to scamper in for a 12-yard touchdown run. With the score, the Cardinals extended their lead to 14-0.
On the play, Neal had to maneuver his way through several offensive linemen up the middle as well as break two tackles to dive across the plane.
Neal showed his running capability in week one with a 43-yard run against Georgia State on a read option keep, but he did not have to break any tackles on that play.
Don’t Forget About the Defense
With the quick start from the offense, the defense seemed to be just taking care of business on the other end until they were able intercept a Bennie Coney pass to start the second quarter.
Coney rolled out to the right side with pressure up the middle from the defense to throw an errant pass into the hands of Marc Walton for Ball State.
Ball State had been able to apply pressure throughout the first few possessions with multiple sacks, and once again, it was the pressure that forced Coney into a bad-throwing decision.
The turnover marked the first career interception for Walton in only his sophomore year.
First Half Exclamation Point
Still early in the second quarter, the Cardinals were able to force another Coney interception throw to set up great field position for the offense already leading 17-0.
With 10:55 left in the second quarter, Neal was able to connect with the true freshman wide receiver Damon Hazelton Jr. on a 5-yard back shoulder touchdown to put Ball State up by 24.
Once again, the play marked another first for a Cardinals’ player as it was the first career touchdown reception for Hazelton Jr. as a true freshman in only week three.
Eastern Kentucky corner Nigel Bethel II almost got a hand on the pass from Neal. It seemed as though Neal and Hazelton Jr. were on the same page as the pass was put just out of the reach of Bethel II.
Ball State Running Away
Jumping ahead to the fourth quarter with the Cardinals still commanding a 34-0 lead over the Colonels, Ball State was able to put the nail in the coffin on Eastern Kentucky with long drives in the second half.
Capping a 13-play, 96-yard drive, Teddy Williamson was able to get into the scoring column with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Cardinals up 41-0.
The Ball State defense continued to stop any movement from Eastern Kentucky as the offense was able to move the ball for 237 yards in the second half.
The Colonels Produce Too Little Too Late
Late in the fourth quarter with some Ball State reserves in on the defense, the Colonels offense started to be effective.
Maty Mauk found his favorite target Devin Borders on a jump ball down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown pass.
Borders stood 7-inches taller than the opposing cornerback from Ball State, David Moore.
Mauk and Borders turned into an effective combination late in the fourth quarter, but the completions started too late with the first Eastern Kentucky score coming with 3:19 left in the fourth quarter.