ATHENS, GA. – Ball State fans might have thought the Cardinals had a chance at the end of the first quarter as their game was tied at zero. Then reality set in.
No. 1 Georgia took over in the second quarter and never let up, forcing multiple turnovers and allowing very little offense for the rest of the game.
In their second straight Southeastern Conference (SEC) road game, the Cardinals were defeated by the Bulldogs 45-3.
Here are three takeaways from Ball State’s second loss of the season.
Ball State’s defense excelled in the first quarter
The Cardinals started the game kicking off to one of the top offenses in the country. At first, it didn’t look great as the Bulldogs returned the kick to their 48-yard line. After a few plays, Georgia seemed to have the momentum.
Though the Bulldogs moved past midfield, the Ball State defense stepped up the pressure. It forced an incomplete pass, which was followed by a forced fumble from junior outside linebacker Keionte Newsome.
While Georgia recovered the fumble, they were forced to attempt a field goal. To the surprise of the crowd, freshman kicker Peyton Woodring missed the 28-yard attempt.
Later in the quarter, the defense continued to make big plays. On Georgia’s second offensive drive of the game, the Cardinals once again rose to the occasion as they forced a punt.
The Cardinals ended the opening quarter by only allowing the Bulldogs to record 72 total yards and kept them off the scoreboard.
Flipped script in the second quarter
The second quarter began with a punt from Ball State. Once Georgia redshirt sophomore returner Mekhi Mews caught the ball, he was gone. Mews carved up the Cardinals defense for a 69-yard touchdown.
Once the Cardinals’ offense returned to the field, they began to move. On third down, Ball State freshman quarterback Kadin Semonza tried to find a receiver down the field, however, the pass was intercepted by sophomore safety Malaki Starks, giving the young quarterback his first college interception.
Following the pick, the Cardinals were penalized for a facemask. Setback upon setback.
This set up a 37-yard completed pass from junior quarterback Carson Beck. Three plays later, Beck found an open receiver for a touchdown.
The problems for Ball State didn’t stop there, as another pass from Semonza would be intercepted in SportsCenter Not Top Ten fashion. On queue, the Bulldogs scored on a rushing touchdown a few plays later.
If Cardinal fans wanted the issues to close, they were most likely disappointed. In the final two minutes of the second quarter, the Ball State defense would find some success and force a field goal. But one play after the kickoff, Semonza was picked off for a third time when his throw was batted into the air.
This gave Georgia (2-0) excellent field position and set up a leaping touchdown run. The Cardinals went into the locker room after giving up 235 yards on offense and 31 points, all scored in the disastrous second quarter.
The quarterback carousel continues
Last week, Semonza was the second string in the Ball State quarterback room. After taking the majority of snaps in the second half against Kentucky, Ball State fans took to social media and gave the freshman some credit.
This week, Ball State head coach Mike Neu named Semonza the starter. During the first half, Semonza went 7-for-16 with 55 passing yards and 3 interceptions.
During the third quarter, a change in position was made, when graduate student Layne Hatcher took back over under center after starting last week’s game. He played the third quarter and went 10-for-16 with 82-passing yards.
But Neu wasn’t done experimenting yet. During the fourth quarter, redshirt sophomore Kiael Kelly took over. He finished the game going 1-for-5 with 10 passing yards.
All together, Ball State quarterbacks went 18-for-37 with 147 passing yards and three interceptions.
Ball State (0-2) will make their home debut Sept. 16, as they welcome Indiana State (0-2) to Muncie in a 2 p.m. matchup.