DETROIT, Mich. - - Despite a pair of touchdown runs from junior MiQuale Lewis, the 12th-ranked Ball State football team suffered a 42-24 setback to Buffalo in the 2008 Mid-American Conference Championship Game Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 12-1 overall, while the Bulls win the 2008 MAC Championship Game with an 8-5 mark.
In addition to Lewis’ two touchdown runs, the junior ended the game with 131 rushing yards on 30 carries, giving him a BSU single-season record 1,701 yards.
Ball State junior quarterback Nate Davis completed 31 of 48 passes in the game for 351 yards and a touchdown. Overall, Davis has completed at least one touchdown pass in 29 of the last 30 games.
Briggs Orsbon was Davis’ target of choice, as the true freshman receiver hauled in a MAC Championship Game record 13 passes for a game-high 141 yards.
Despite their efforts, the Cardinals fell in an early hole for the just the fourth time this season when Buffalo recovered a fumbled snap late in first quarter to get the ball at the Ball State 25-yard line. Three plays later, the Bulls broke onto the scoreboard as Drew Willy found Naam Roosevelt in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown. All three plays in the drive were completions from Willy to Roosevelt, while A.J. Principe connected on the extra point to give UB a 7-0 lead.
The Cardinals responded midway through the second quarter, as Lewis became BSU’s all-time single-season leading rusher with a seven-yard gain from the Buffalo 11-yard line. Lewis followed with a four-yard touchdown scamper, for his 21st TD of the season. Overall, the BSU scoring drive covered nine plays, 80 yards and lasted 4:01, with Lewis running for 32 yards and adding a 12-yard reception. Ian McGarvey split the uprights on the extra point attempts to knot the score at 7-7.
BSU’s defense responded on the next Buffalo drive, as a Bryant Haines sack for an eight-yard Buffalo loss helped force the Bulls to punt after six plays. Despite three-straight first down completions from Davis on the Cardinals corresponding drive, the Buffalo defense was able to force a BSU punt from the UB 38.
Haines came up huge again for the Cardinals on the next Buffalo drive, as he recovered a James Starks fumble at the Buffalo 47-yard line. The fumble, which was caused by Robert Eddins, left Ball State with exactly one minute on the clock before halftime.
Despite a one-yard loss to open the drive, a five-yard pass to Lewis, followed by runs of 10 yards and four yards from Davis gave the Cardinals the ball at the Buffalo 33-yard line with 12 second left in the half. Ball State made one more attempt to go down the field, but an incomplete pass led to a career-long tying 47-yard field goal by McGarvey as the half expired to give the Cardinals a 10-7 edge.
The Cardinals looked poised to gain great field position for their opening drive of the second half, as a solid defensive effort forced Buffalo into a fourth-and-one play from the Ball State 44-yard line. However, the Bulls offense returned to the field for the fourth down play and the Cardinals were drawn offside for their first penalty of the game.
It turned out to be a costly mistake as Willy connected with Roosevelt for a 39-yard touchdown, the duo’s second of the evening, on the next play allowing Buffalo to pull ahead. Principe capped the seven-play, 80-yard drive with his second PAT of the contest pushing the score to 14-10.
The Cardinals responded on the next drive, as Lewis capped a seven-play, 65-yard and 3:10 drive with his second touchdown of the evening, this time on a one-yard run. Lewis started the drive at the BSU 35-yard line with runs of seven, six and six yards. Davis followed with an 18-yard pass to Orsbon and a 27-yard connection to Darius Hill to set up the one-yard rush, while McGarvey added his 70th consecutive PAT to give BSU a 17-14 lead.
Haines came up big once again for the Cardinals on the next Buffalo possession, recovering his second fumble of the day to give BSU the ball at the UB 38-yard line. A heavy dose of Lewis followed, as the junior helped guide Ball State to the Buffalo one-yard line.
However, after a two-yard loss and a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the eight-yard line, a Davis diving attempt to cross the goal line on a seven-yard rush lead to a fumble and a 92-yard touchdown run for Buffalo’s Mike Newton. After the extra point, the Bulls gained a 21-17 lead.
After driving the ball to the Buffalo 15-yard line, the Cardinals found themselves trailing by 11 points after the team’s third fumble of the game was run back for a 74-yard touchdown by Sherrod Lott. With the extra point, Buffalo pulled ahead 28-17.
The Cardinals fourth fumble of the game, which was forced and recovered by Buffalo’s Adekunle Akingba at the Ball State 29-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, set up Willy’s third touchdown strike to Roosevelt on an eight-yard completion. Principe capped the six-play, 29-yard and 2:48 drive with the point-after, extending the Buffalo lead to 35-17.
The Cardinals cut the Buffalo lead back to 11 points with 4:17 remaining in the game after a 22-yard completion from Davis to Louis Johnson capped an eight-play, 66-yard drive which took just 1:41 off the game clock. MaGarvey connected on the PAT to make the score 35-24.
Needing to get the ball back quickly, the Cardinals attempted an onside kick after the score, which was recovered by the Bulls. Buffalo then extended its lead to 18 points for a second time at 42-24, on a one-yard run up the middle by Starks and a Principe kick.
An interception in the end zone with :41 remaining in the contest sealed the win for the Buffalo.
The Ball State football team awaits a bid to one of the three MAC affiliated bowl games. Check www.ballstatesports.com later this weekend for when and where the Cardinals will return to action.
BALL STATE NOTES:
• Including 351 yards versus Buffalo in the 2008 Mid-American Conference Championship Game at Ford Field, Nate Davis has passed for 3,446 yards this season to become the first quarterback in Ball State history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season twice in a career. He threw for a school record 3,667 yards last year to become the first to ever throw for 3,000 in a season.
• Davis, who threw for 351 yards versus Buffalo, has thrown for 250 or more yards in a game a school record 20 times.
• Including a 22-yard strike to Louis Johnson in the fourth quarter versus Buffalo, Davis has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 29 of the last 30 games.
• MiQuale Lewis became BSU’s all-time single-season leading rusher with a seven-yard run on first and 10 from the Buffalo 11-yard line with 8:20 remaining in the second quarter. Lewis followed with a four-yard touchdown scamper to knot the score at 7-7. During the scoring drive, Lewis racked up 32 rushing yards, while adding a 12-year reception.
• Lewis finished Friday’s MAC Championship game versus Buffalo with 131 total yards, giving him a BSU single-season record 1,701 yards. Lewis passed the record of 1,618 yards set by Marcus Merriweather in 2002.
• The 131 rushing yards also gave Lewis his school-record 11th 100-yard game this season, and the 12th of his career.
• Lewis rushed for two TD’s versus Buffalo to build upon his Ball State season-single rushing and overall touchdown records which now stand at 22. In addition, Lewis has scored 132 points this season to set the Ball State single-season mark, breaking the previous record of 114 by Mark Bornholdt in 1979.
• Briggs Orsbon, a true freshman, recorded a Mid-American Conference Championship Game record 13 catches for 141 yards.
• Bryant Haines two fumble recoveries tie the BSU single-game record, which has occurred 17 times.
• Ian McGarvey connected on a career-long tying 47-yard field goal to give the Cardinals a 10-7 lead as the first half ended. Thanks to the field goal, the Cardinals have held the lead at the half in 12 of its 13 games this season. The Cardinals were tied with Central Michigan, 10-10, at the half.
• McGarvey made three extra points versus Buffalo and has now made a school record 71 straight PATs dating back to last season, shattering the previous mark of 40 straight.
• The Cardinals have scored a school record 476 points this season.