The Eastern Michigan University football team’s offense missed out on scoring opportunities, leading to a 51-20 loss to the Ball State University Cardinals on Saturday at Rynearson Stadium.
The Eagles started backup sophomore running back Darius Jackson, who ran nine carries for 44 yards and a touchdown in the homecoming game but fumbled twice in the process.
“He gave up the ball twice, and it’s going to cost your team the game if you do that,” EMU head coach Ron English said.
Jackson’s first fumble came with 6:23 left in the first quarter and gave the Cardinals the ball on the Eagles’ 17-yard line. Two plays later, Ball State senior quarterback Keith Wenning threw a 15-yard touchdown pass over the right shoulder and into the hands of sophomore wide receiver Jordan Williams for a 20-6 lead.
Jackson’s second fumble came inside the Cardinals’ 30-yard line early in the second quarter.
EMU (1-3, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) had its best rushing game of the season as the Eagles ran for 204 yards to follow up from their performance of 38 yards on 40 carries last week. Junior running back Bronson Hill took most of the handoffs, going 126 yards on 21 carries. He had his longest run of the season early in the third quarter, which was a 35-yarder.
The quarterback-receiver duo of Wenning and Williams was effective all afternoon for BSU (3-1, 1-0 MAC). They connected for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns in their team’s first road win of 2013.
Wenning threw his fourth straight 300-plus-yard game with 317 yards and 2 TD’s. He went 17-for-28.
“He made more fade throws than I’ve ever seen,” English said. “If you can’t defend that route, then it’s going to be a long day.”
More than half of Wenning’s completed passes were to junior wide receiver Willie Snead. Snead caught nine for 175 yards, which included 51- and 44-yard receptions in the third quarter.
A fourth down conversion from a 17-yard pass by senior quarterback Tyler Benz to junior wide receiver Demarius Reed allowed the Eagles to get in the red-zone and score on the first drive of the game. Jackson ran one in from seven yards out, but BSU blocked the extra point attempt to keep the score at 6-0 at 3:33 into the game.
Benz threw for 212 yards, a TD and 2 interceptions with a .625 completion percentage.
Two and a half minutes later, junior running back Jahwan Edwards slipped through the line and broke a handful of tackles to take a read option in for a 36-yard TD run. BSU took a 7-6 lead and kept the lead for the rest of the game.
“I didn’t think we tackled well early in the game,” English said.
Edwards ran for 81 yards and scored three touchdowns on 15 attempts.
After the Cardinals’ defense forced a three-and-out, redshirt sophomore running back Horatio Banks turned his first run of the day into a 43-yard rushing TD, and BSU took a 13-6 lead after fumbling the snap on the PAT.
The Cardinals’ leading rusher had just seven rushing attempts and 65 yards.
EMU trailed 27-6 for most of the second quarter but made it a two-possession game when junior running back Ryan Brumfield pounded a TD in from the one-yard line. It was his second career TD run and his first of the 2013 season.
BSU was able to extend its lead before the half ended when redshirt senior wide receiver Jamill Smith scored on a 27-yard run. Smith took off down the left sideline on a reverse play to give the Cardinals a 34-13 lead at the half.
The pair of interceptions thrown by Benz came while the Eagles trailed 44-20. Both interceptions occurred inside of BSU territory.
Benz’s second interception ended a 79-yard, 8:25 drive in the fourth quarter when he was picked off by redshirt senior defensive end Jonathan Newsome in the end zone.
EMU has a bye next week but will return to MAC play on Oct. 5 when the Eagles visit the University at Buffalo for a noon kickoff.
Follow Derrick on Twitter @derrickvergo