Ball State's football team, under the direction of third-year head coach Pete Lembo, defeated Virginia from the Atlantic Coast Conference 48-27 to improve to 5-1 on the season.
“I am usually not speechless, but I am pretty darn close," Lembo says. "It is going to take a while for this one to really sink in. We have had three BCS wins the last two years, but nothing compares to this. Coming on the road to Virginia, beating an ACC opponent, a team with the caliber athletes that they have, and the fact we are very much depleted. You know I never make excuses about injuries, but we went into this game shorthanded and lost some other guys as the game went on. Some guys fought to get back in there, but this was a really gutsy effort by our guys and a relatively mistake free game. No turnovers, we didn’t have very many penalties and I believe they did.”
The win, which was the fourth in Lembo's three years over a Football Bowl Subdivision team from an automatic qualifying conference, was only the second over Virginia from a current Mid-American Conference team. Virginia entered the game with a 10-1-1 mark over current MAC programs. In addition, the victory marked the first non-conference loss in the month of October for Virginia since 2006.
Ball State's Keith Wenning completed 23-of-41 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns in the win. In addition, Wenning became the Cardinals' career passing leader with 9,250 yards, surpassing the previous mark of 9,233 by Nate Davis from 2006-08.
“We have a lot of guys that have played a lot of football and we have great coaches," Wenning says. "We could not ask for any better ones. One thing we emphasize is there are 11 guys on their defense and 11 guys on their offense. They put their cleats and pants on the same way we do. We are not playing superstars and we are not playing Superman. We are playing 11 guys just like us. And when we go out there on the field, we are going to do what we do and do it with confidence.”
After falling behind 17-7 early in the second quarter, a Scott Secor 21-yard field goal closed the gap to 17-10 and began a run of 17 unanswered points by the Cardinals to take a 24-17 lead with 11:26 to play in the third quarter. An 11-yard Wenning to Willie Snead pass and a one-yard run by Wenning accounted for the other 14 points in the stretch.
Virginia tied the game at 24-24 with 7:09 left in the third stanza before Jahwan Edwards rushed for his second touchdown of the game to put the Cardinals back in the lead at 31-24. Secor added on to the lead with a 45-yard field goal as the fourth quarter began and Ball State led 34-24.
The final 10 minutes of the game were marked by a Wenning to Jordan Williams 72-yard scoring pass play, that was the all-time career yardage record setter for Wenning and the longest reception of Williams' career. The big play gave Ball State a 41-27 lead with 10:02 to play.
Edwards set the Ball State career touchdowns rushing record with his 35th score at the 5:15 mark to give the Cardinals the 48-27 winning margin. It also marked Edwards' third straight game with three rushing TDs and added on to his school standard with six career games with three rushing scores.
“We just felt like all week, if we had a good week of preparations, if we worried about ourselves, and if we came in and just chipped away, we really felt like our unity and our chemistry would pay off down the stretch," Lembo says. "I really believe that is what happened out there today. As the adversity grew in this game, our guys came closer and closer together and just kept doing what we have been preparing them to do for almost three years now. You could just feel it as the game went on that we were getting stronger, despite being low in numbers. We didn’t play many people today. We didn’t have many people to play and I don’t know that we could have put many others in the game. We burned a redshirt on Stu Stanley today because we ran out of guys on special teams. This is big because we fought through a lot to get this one.”
Ball State, 2-0 in MAC play, will return to league action Saturday with its Homecoming Game vs. Kent State at 3 p.m. in Scheumann Stadium.
“I am proud of these kids," Lembo says. "I am proud of these assistant coaches. We are not the biggest program in America but the hearts are big, the effort is tremendous, and the belief in each other and everybody in that locker room is as good as any team I have been around. We are going to keep scratching and clawing and we will enjoy this for 24 hours and then it is off to Kent State.”