Ball State's high-flying offense came to a screeching halt in the second half Saturday afternoon against North Texas.
Following dominating wins in the first two weeks of the season, the Cardinals looked headed towards another blowout against the North Texas Mean Green in Denton. The Cardinal offensive juggernaut raced out to a 27-16 halftime lead and racked up over 360 yards in the first half. Keith Wenning looked sharp, throwing for nearly 200 yards and Horactio Banks ran all over the Mean Green defense, showcasing his explosive ability on a 77 yard touchdown run. Ball State's third touchdown of the first quarter came on a Brian Jones scoop and score from three yards out after an Antoinne Jimmerson fumble.
A resilient Mean Green squad regrouped and came out in the second half firing, scoring on their first possession and tacking on a two point conversion to pull to within 27-24. After a 20 yard Zach Paul field goal to tie the game, the Mean Green took their first lead after senior quarterback Derek Thompson rushed up the middle from 27 yards out with 10:50 remaining. The Cardinals offense mustered just one first down from that point forward. The Ball State defense did manage to stop North Texas with two minutes remaining, but BSU's comeback hopes were thwarted when Wenning threw his second interception of the game with 1:36 on the clock.
Ball State encountered its stiffest opponent of the young season in North Texas. After blowout victories against Illinois State and Army, the Cardinals faced a significantly improved defense. This game against the Mean Green is a better representation of the type of competition Ball State will be up against as we draw nearer to MAC play. If the Cardinals look to compete in the highly competitive MAC West, it will be imperative that they do a better job of protecting the ball and tighten things up on defense. On the final North Texas drive, the Mean Green converted on several third downs, by the time the Cardinals were able to get the ball back they were out of time outs and deep in their own territory. Today the Cardinals learned every game can't be a shootout, and the defense will need to put up stops, a task easier said than done in the high octane MAC. 51 points worked in week one. 40 worked in week two. 27 did not work in week three.
Ball State gets it's first taste of MAC competition next Saturday when the Cardinals travel to Ypsilanti to do battle with the Eastern Michigan Eagles.