MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State football team earned a 31-27 come from behind victory over Central Michigan Saturday afternoon in Scheumann Stadium.
The Cardinals tied the fourth largest comeback in school history after claiming the victory despite falling behind 17-0 with 10:34 to play in the second quarter.
With the victory, Ball State improves to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference, while Central Michigan fell to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in league action.
"I don't quite have an explanation for the first half," Ball State head coach Pete Lembo says. "I know exactly what happened. We missed a lot of tackles and had a lot of guys with some technique issues, particularly in pass defense. But, the good news is I did not sense the wind coming out of our sails. We still had pretty good focus on the sidelines. Our guys were battling, and obviously the two-minute drive before the half and the field goal just at the half, really helped."
Central Michigan took the early 3-0 edge over Ball State after David Harman nailed a career long 45-yard field goal in the Chippewas first possession. Central Michigan would end the first quarter with a touchdown to increase its lead to 10-0.
In the second quarter, sophomore punter Scott Secor ran 28 yards for a first down off of a fake punt, but the Cardinals were unable to capitalize on the play.
At the 10:34 mark of the second quarter, the Chippewas increased their lead over the Cardinals to 17-0 after quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Blackburn.
With 38 seconds remaining in the second quarter sophomore quarterback Keith Wenning started Ball State's march down the field with a 46-yard pass completion to wide receiver Jack Tomlinson. The Cardinals drive resulted in a 25-yard field goal from kicker Steven Schott to end the half at 17-3.
"You probably think halftime was one of those when you go in and peel the paint off the walls but that wasn't the case at all," Lembo says. "I told them I totally expected and had confidence that we could cut away at it and get ourselves back in the game. I felt good when we came out of the locker room."
Wenning connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Briggs Orsbon at the 6:42 mark in the third quarter to make the score 20-10.
Ball State was then fueled by Nathan Ollie's forced fumble on the Chippewas 41-yard line, which was recovered by Travis Freeman. The fumble recovery marked Freeman's first of the season and second of his career. Ball State capitalized on Central Michigan's miscue as the turnover set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Jahwan Edwards that would cut Central Michigan's lead to 20-17.
More Ball State scoring came after Central Michigan mistakes. The Cardinals managed to take the lead for the first time after Wenning found junior tight end Aaron Mershman for a 2-yard TD reception with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter to give Ball State a 24-20 advantage.
Central Michigan responded with a touchdown at the 11:45 mark in the fourth quarter making it a 31-27 contest but Ball State quickly answered back after Wenning completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver and Muncie junior Jamill Smith to give Ball State the 31-27 edge over the Chippewas.
Ball State's defense forced some critical turnovers that helped the Cardinals to victory over the Chippewas. Late in the fourth quarter Aaron Morris forced Central Michigan to fumble on Ball State's 27-yard line. Jason Pinkston then recovered the fumble making it the first of his career.
Senior safety Sean Baker capped the game off at the end of regulation with his second interception of the season. Baker is the all-time record holder for interceptions at Ball State with 18.
On defense, Morris and Ollie both forced a Central Michigan fumble, while leading the defense in tackles with a combined 26 tackles. Freeman also had two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Ball State vs. Central Michigan Notes (10/22/11)
- The Cardinals' 17-point comeback is tied for their fourth largest comeback in program history, matching the 17-point rally against Ohio Oct. 12, 1996.
- The Cardinals scored 21 points in the third quarter, which are the most points scored in a third quarter this season surpassing the 14 points scored against Army (9/24/11). The 21 points are the second most points scored this season in any quarter behind a 24-point second quarter effort against Army
- Ball State scored a season-high 28 points in the second half, surpassing its 17-point effort against Army. The 28 points in a half are the most since scoring 31 points against the Black Knights.
- Quarterback Keith Wenning posted his 22nd, 23rd and 24th career touchdown passes in the second half to raise his season total to 10 scoring passes.
- Wenning threw for a career-high 325 yards in the victory as he was 27-of-38. His 325 yards surpasses his previous high of 324 against Army (9/24/11).
- Wenning's three touchdown passes ties his career-high as he posted three-scoring strikes on four different occasions (Army 2011, Akron 2010, Toledo 2010 & Eastern Michigan 2010). Today's performance is his seventh career multiple-touchdown passing game of his career and fourth this season.
- Wide receiver Jamill Smith returns the opening kickoff a career-high 48 yards, surpassing his previous mark of 27 yards against Temple (10/8/11).
- Smith caught his second career touchdown with a 34-yard reception in the fourth quarter. His previous touchdown reception was against Army (9/24/11).
- Punter Scott Secor rushes for a career-high 28 yards on a fake punt in the second quarter in his first career rush attempt.
- Wide receiver Jack Tomlinson caught a season-high 46-yard pass in the second quarter, surpassing his previous season-high of 16 yards against South Florida (9/10/11).
- Tomlinson finished the game with a season-high 109 yards receiving, marking his first game of 100-plus yards this year and the third of his career (Akron, 2010 & Northern Illinois, 2010).
- Placekicker Steven Schott hit a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter. Schott is now 10-of-11 in his career on field goals from 39 yards or less.
- Wide receiver Briggs Orsbon caught a season-high 28 yard pass in the second quarter, surpassing his previous high of 21 yards against Buffalo (9/17/11).
- The touchdown reception is the second of the season for Orsbon and the ninth of his career.
- Freshman running back Jahwan Edwards posted his eighth career rushing touchdown with a one-yard run in the third quarter.
- Defensive tackle Nathan Ollie forced his first career fumble in the third quarter.
- Linebacker Travis Freeman posted his second career fumble recovery and first of the season in the third quarter.
- Ollie and Freeman combined in the third quarter for the Cardinals' 12th sack of the year. The sack raised Ollie's team-leading total to five sacks while Freeman picked up his second and third sacks of the year in the victory.
- Wide receiver Connor Ryan caught a career-long 41 yard pass in the third quarter, surpassing his previous high of 25 yards at South Florida (9/10/11).
- Tight end Aaron Mershman posted his second career touchdown reception and first of the year with a two-yard score in the third quarter.
- Linebacker Aaron Morris forced his third fumble of the season in the fourth quarter.
- Cornerback Jason Pinkston recovered his first career fumble in the fourth quarter.
- Safety Sean Baker ended the game with his 18th career interception to raise his BSU career interception record. Baker has two interceptions this season.
Central Michigan 3, Ball State 0
8:16- 45-yard field goal David Harman.
12 plays, 61 yards, 4:14
Central Michigan 10, Ball State 0
2:46- Ryan Radcliff 19-yard touchdown pass to David Blackburn. David Harman kick good.
8 plays, 93 yards, 3:45
Central Michigan 17, Ball State 0
10:34 - Ryan Radcliff 60-yard touchdown pass to David Blackburn. David Harman kick good.
7 plays, 91 yards, 3:20
Central Michigan 17, Ball State 3
:00- Steven Schott 25-yard field goal.
7 plays, 74 yards, :38
Central Michigan 20, Ball State 3
11:14- David Harman 38-yard field goal.
8 plays, 46 yards, 3:38
Central Michigan 20, Ball State 10
12 plays, 88 yards, 4:27
Central Michigan 20, Ball State 17
4 plays, 38 yards, 1:11
Ball State 24, Central Michigan 20
5 plays, 77 yards, 1:46
Central Michigan 27, Ball State 24
11:45- Ryan Radcliff 10-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson. David Harman kick good.
8 plays, 85 yards, 4:27
Ball State 31, Central Michigan 27
6 plays, 60 yards, 2:04
Offensively, Wenning threw for a career-high 325 yards in the victory, connecting on 27-of-38 passes. His 325 yards surpasses his previous high of 324 against Army (9/24/11).