Ball State's Questionable Late Hit Penalty Changed Everything



 

This is what I wrote immediately after the game.

I'm exhausted, frustrated, pissed off, ....add a bunch of expletives and that pretty much sums up how the fourth quarter went Tuesday night.

For starters, the Sean Baker pick-six that should've given Ball State an 11-point lead. What an atrocious call. Tony Martin had already made contact with Harnish and was finishing the tackle. How do you call that in that situation, especially seeing that Harnish made a huge mistake and threw it right to Baker. That call by the official was INEXCUSABLE. Call it sour grapes, call it what you want, but that call was the difference in the game. The implications of the call are endless.

The call essentially took Ball State out of the MAC West title and placed it in the hands of Northern Illinois. 

I knew that wasn't going to read well, but the beauty of being fans is that even someone as level-headed as myself can become irrational. Now that I've some time to reflect, let's start over.

That call against Tony Martin was TERRIBLE!

 It's going to take at least 24 hours to get over. Alright, it wasn't terrible, per se, but man, that was pretty soft.  Martin made contact with Harnish right as he was releasing the ball and was finishing the play. He didn't fly in a second later and hit him; it wasn't even helmet-to-helmet... it was just, well, it was nothing. And now Ball State is out of the MAC West race.

But, in truth, especially when you look at the total yardage, it was a game Ball State never should've been in. Harnish was a beast, accumulating 519 total yards of offense, which I believe the ESPNU commentators said was a Mid-American Conference record.  

Harnish is going to receive heaps of plays for his yards (519) and touchdowns (3). He's probably going to win MAC West Player of the Week honors. He's going to be talked about on SportsCenter and we'll have to see that drive over and over. It's amazing how one play, one call can change a legacy or how someone is perceived in a game. Harnish, who up to that point had a phenomenal game, made a huge mistake and that should've been the take-away from it. One poor pass erases everything he had done during the game. But instead, he's a hero. And those two high lob passes that I think he was throwing out of bounds but were caught by NIU receivers - geesh.

That's something Ball State is going to have to live with. The Cardinals got outgained 710-398, so one would be inclined to say that Cardinal fans shouldn't have much leg to stand on. But hey, Ball State cashed in on a couple huge gaffes by NIU, mainly the 92-yard fumble return by Joshua Howard and the 68-yard run by Scott Kovanda on the fake punt, which set up a touchdown and put Ball State up 31-14.

It's never over in the MAC, especially at 31-14, but it was frustrating to see how swiftly and efficiently Northern erased that deficit and took a 35-31 lead.

Now, Ball State missed on its fair share of opportunities. Three 3-and-outs early in the second half didn't help things. Going for it on 4th-and-3 on the NIU half of the field is fine; calling a QB sneak on the play - not fine. What may be forgotten here is Jamill Smith's drop on Ball State's final drive. He was wide open near midfield and flat-out dropped it. A NIU defender flashed into the scene late and appeared to distract him or something. I don't know. But Ball State was forced to punt, leading to Harnish chopping up the Ball State defense one final drive. The Cardinals weren't that far away from Steven Schott field-goal range either, especially with the wind.

Speaking of defense, that's probably where the blame lies. Yards allowed: 710. Missed tackles all over the place, a refusal to run a defense with a QB Spy or anything that appeared designed to stop Harnish.

But alas, here Ball State sits 6-5 and although the Cardinals are bowl-eligible, they're probably going to need to beat Toledo next week to make one. With MAC West dreams erased, it's time to put this one in the rearview and focus on getting win number seven and a spot in a random bowl game.

But give me some time before I shift to Toledo. I've still got 23 more hours to think about that Tony Martin call.

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