Their confidence never wavered.
Ball State (2-3, 0-1 MAC) defeated Army (4-1) 28-16 Saturday evening.
On the opening kickoff, redshirt fifth-year wide receiver Justin Hall took the kickoff back for a 99-yard touchdown return.
After Hall’s touchdown, Army took the field and turned it over on downs early into the possession.
For its first offensive play from scrimmage, Ball State redshirt fifth-year quarterback Drew Plitt connected with junior wide receiver Jayshon Jackson on a 44-yard touchdown.
"Jayshon is one heck of a player,” Plitt said. “He got here in the summer, we worked together a lot and he's just one heck of a player. He runs his routes well and truly gets open, and it's tough to teach somebody who is just capable of getting open on route running.”
With a little over four minutes left in the first quarter, freshman running back Carson Steele scored his fourth touchdown of the season on a two-yard rush.
Suddenly, Ball State had built up a 21-0 lead. Head Coach Mike Neu praised offensive coordinator Kevin Lynch for keeping his foot on the gas pedal.
“Kevin Lynch did a great job of staying aggressive and staying with a great mentality,” Neu said. “There were a lot of positive things, but there's still things that we got to clean up on our end of it. We had a couple of plays that were still out there to be made, that we didn't make. There's lots of positives here to build on, and I think our guys know when they see and I think it'll do a lot for us from that standpoint.”
Plitt finished with 233 yards on 17-of-28 passing. The second of Plitt’s touchdowns went to senior wide receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler, who totaled 85 yards on five receptions. Neu was pleased with his receiving unit and their ability to win one-on-one matchups against the Army secondary.
“Our guys stepped up when their number was called,” Neu said. “There were several big catches, obviously starting in the game, but there were several big catches that happened throughout the game. It was great to see a guy like Jayshon step up and have a huge game. and Yo’Heinz deliver, and obviously we all know what Justin can do. If we can establish that refuse to lose mentality and that refuse to lose mindset, that can carry us along the way and I'm just proud of those guys for stepping up.”
Army totaled 213 rushing yards, which is close to 132 yards less than its 344.5 season average. Junior quarterback Tyhier Tyler registered 81 rushing yards, and scored both of Army's touchdowns. Junior linebacker Clayton Coll tallied 12 tackles, and praised the defensive lineman up front for their performance.
“I think our defensive line played great,” Coll said, ‘I think that they did their job absolutely, they took care of the dive, they kept their offensive line from reaching out to me and the backers. I can speak for myself here, I need to be more disciplined and key my back a little bit better when he arcs out, I got to go. That just comes back to going back and watching the film.”
Redshirt junior inside linebacker Cole Pearce recorded a team-high 14 tackles, including nine solo. His 14 tackles were a new career-high. Fifth-year inside linebacker Jaylin Thomas (11) also finished with double-digit tackles.
Ball State forced two turnovers, with interceptions from graduate student defensive back Trenton Hatfield and fifth-year defensive back Bryce Cosby. With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Cosby made a tackle on 4th & Goal, which ultimately sealed the Cardinals holding Army to zero second-half points.
“J.T Wahee made a great play to save us that gave us a fighting chance in the red zone,” Cosby said. “I didn't want to let my team down. Me as a leader, I felt like it was on me to make the play that came to me. My preparation in the offseason, I think all that came to fruition today. When it was time to make a play, I was ready.”
Ball State returns to action Oct. 9 on the road against Western Michigan (4-1, 1-0 MAC). Kickoff is 3:30 p.m.
Contact Charleston Bowles with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cbowles01.