After building a 17-0 in the first half, Eastern Michigan surrendered 28 unanswered points to fall at home to conference rival Ball State 28-17.
Cardinals quarterback Riley Neal completed 24-of-28 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown to go with 93 rushing yards and a touchdown, while running back Darian Green rushed for 166 yards to lead Ball State (2-1, 1-0 MAC) to the victory over EMU (1-2, 0-1 MAC).
“First thing in order is to congratulate Ball State,” Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. “Really well played game. They made the plays in the end to win.”
First scoring of the game came with 39 seconds left in the first quarter with a 36 yard field goal by Dylan Mulder after recovering a muffed punt by Ball State return man Corey Lacanaria.
EMU followed that up with touchdown drives on the next two possessions, with running back Darius Jackson scoring from 19 yards and 63 yards on the ground to extend the lead to 17-0 with 7:23 left before halftime.
Ball State finished the half with a pair of touchdowns on a 54-yard run by Neal and a 26-yard pass from Neal to receiver Jordan Williams.
After a pair of punts on both sides, Ball State put together a 20-play, 85 yard drive that took 9:49 off the clock capped off by a James Gilbert five-yard run to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 21-17. BSU converted two fourth and short situations on the drive to extend it, and converted a total of three fourth down attempts in the game.
“We have a veteran offensive line, and we’ve gotta be able to execute in those situations [the fourth down situations],” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. “We know we were playing a high-powered offense in Eastern Michigan, and we had to stay on the field. So, they were high risk-high reward decisions.”
The Eagles couldn’t find any traction on the ensuing drive, going three-and-out and allowing Ball State to put together another drive and extend the deficit to 28-17.
“That second half, for them to have that 20-play, essentially a ten minute drive and score was where I felt a lapse in the team,” Creighton said. “I believe on that drive they had third and fourth down conversions and on our next drive went 52 seconds and out. It was the one time I felt there was a lapse in our team in energy and belief.”
EMU had a few opportunities to get back in the game on its final three drives, but a missed 34-yard field goal and a pair of interceptions from Brogan Roback ended the Eagle comeback attempts.
Roback finished the day 19-for-39 for 196 yards and the two interceptions in his second straight start at quarterback.
The Eagles will stay home next week, hosting Army for the first time since 2012. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Rynearson Stadium.
-Darius Jackson’s 63-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was a career-long run, and gives the Eagles a second straight week with a run over 60 yards, following Shaq Vann’s 74-yard run the previous week at Wyoming. Jackson finished the game with seven carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
-Safety Juan Giraldo was ejected in the first quarter after being called for a targeting penalty. Ejection was upheld after a review.