DEKALB, Ill. - The Ball State football team (6-5, 4-3 MAC) lost a close 41-38 decision to Northern Illinois (8-3, 5-2 MAC) Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium.
It was a Mid-American Conference West Division showdown as the game was tied 38-38 with eight seconds left in the game. Northern Illinois would make a 34-yard field goal to claim the victory over the Cardinals and put themselves in position to win the MAC West crown.
"Give credit to Northern Illinois, they are an outstanding football program," Ball State first-year head coach Pete Lembo says. "We have a lot to learn and a long way to go to be a program like Northern Illinois. Sometimes you have to be put in these types of situations to grow. We have won our share of close games this season, this time they made more plays then we did and they won the game. There was no lack of effort or preparation from our players or coaches, but Northern Illinois is a good football program and earned the win."
Junior running back Dwayne Donigan's 7-yard touchdown run with 11:11 left in the contest gave Ball State the 38-35 lead in the fourth quarter. But at the 2:46 mark Northern Illinois would tie the game, 38-38, off of a Matthew Sims 23-yard field goal.
In a game that saw a total of over 1,000 yards in total offense, the kicking game proved to be a key. Sims' two field goals for NIU in the final three minutes of the game was the deciding factor.
Ball State led 14-0 after the first quarter, and took a 24-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. But, Northern Illinois' offense, which ranks ninth in the country in scoring, managed 27 second half points to the Cardinals 14.
Keith Wenning completed 23-of-43 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Briggs Orsbon tallied five catches for 55 yards. Jamill Smith managed four catches for 63 yards and one touchdown, and Jack Tomlinson had four receptions for 27 yards and one score.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, junior punter Scott Kovanda rushed for 68 yards on a fake punt, which resulted in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Wenning to Tomlinson and increased Ball State's lead to 31-14.
Kovanda would end the game as the Cardinals leading rusher with 68 yards, while Jahwan Edwards would rush 14 times for 45 yards.
Northern Illinois would strike twice in the third quarter and then again at the start of the fourth quarter to take its first lead 35-31of the second half.
Dwayne Donigan with 11:00 minutes left in the game rushed for seven yards for his first touchdown of his career, to put Ball State up 38-35 over Northern Illinois.
Late in the first quarter, the Cardinals managed to cause back-to-back fumbles on Northern Illinois' ensuing possessions. Junior cornerback Armand Dehaney caused the first fumble which was recovered by senior safety Sean Baker. The Cardinals did not capitalize on the Huskies first miscue, but managed to score on the next Northern Illinois mistake after senior safety Joshua Howard returned his longest fumble of his career for a 92-yard touchdown.
Travis Freeman would lead Ball State's defense with 18 tackles, while Dehaney added 13 and Baker managed 11.
Ball State will end the regular season with a 2 p.m. home game at Scheumann Stadium Fri., Nov. 25.
-Quarterback Keith Wenning rushed for three yards in the first quarter for his third rushing touchdown of the season and seventh of his career.
-Safety Sean Baker recorded his first fumble of the season and fourth of his career in the first quarter.
-Armand Dehaney forced his first fumble of his career in the first quarter.
-Joshua Howard returns his longest fumble of his career for a 92-yard touchdown. It was Howards first fumble recovery return for a touchdown. Howard recorded his third fumble recovery of the season and for his career.
-Andre Dawson forced his first fumble of the season in the first quarter.
-Jamill Smith scored his third touchdown of the season in the second quarter.
-This marks the fourth game in quarterback Keith Wenning's career he has both rushed and passed for a touchdown in the same game. Wenning has now thrown 17 touchdown passes this season and 31 in his career.
-Steven Schott has now made 2-of-5 field goals from 40-yards or more in his career.
-Jack Tomlinson had his second touchdown catch of the season in the third quarter and eighth of his career.
-Kyle Hoke recovered his third fumble of his career in the third quarter.
-Dwayne Donigan's touchdown in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.
Ball State 7, Northern Illinois 0
7 plays, 85 yards, 9:21
Ball State 14, Northern Illinois 0
2:10- Josh Howard returns a fumble for 92-yards for a touchdown. Steven Schott kick good.
Ball State 14, Northern Illinois 7
13:48- Chandler Harnish 15-yard touchdown pass to Martel Moore. Mathew Sims kick good.
8 plays, 66 yards, 3:22
Ball State 14, Northern Illinois 14
6:28- Jasmin Hopkins 3-yard run. Mathew Sims kick good.
10 plays, 90 yards, 4:17
Ball State 21, Northern Illinois 14
7 plays, 72 yards, 2:51
Ball State 24, Northern Illinois 14
:33- Steven Schott 40-yard field goal.
7 plays, 20 yards, 1:37
Ball State 31, Northern Illinois 14
3 plays, 60 yards, :52
Ball State 31, Northern Illinois 21
8:27- Chandler Harnish 49-yard touchdown run. Mathew Sims kick good.
3 plays, 60 yards, :52
Ball State 31, Northern Illinois 28
3:16- Jasmin Hopkins 11-yard touchdown run. Mathew Sims kick good.
10 plays, 92 yards, 3:40
Northern Illinois 35, Ball State 31
14:12- Chander Harnish 27-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Palmer. Mathew Sims kick good.
8 plays, 59 yards, 2:39
Ball State 38, Northern Illinois 35
5 plays, 43 yards, :51
Ball State 38, Northern Illinois 38
2:46- Mathew Sims 23-yard field goal.
12 plays, 74 yards, 4:41
Northern Illinois 41, Ball State 38
:08- Mathew Sims 34-yard field goal.