The defenders of our freedom did a significantly poorer job of defending their goal line Saturday in Muncie, Indiana.
The Ball State (2-0, 0-0) offensive machine capitalized on scoring opportunities early and often, in a 40-14 win. Army's (1-1) triple option offense generated 439 to Ball State's 440, but after a touchdown on their first drive, struggled to put the ball in the end zone. Junior running back Larry Dixon started the scoring early, rushing 71 yards for a score on the third play of the game. There's a popular saying in Muncie with this offense however. "It's going to take more than that."
The Cardinals immediately fired back, marching 60 yards in 9 plays in just over three minutes to tie the score on a Horactio Banks 10 yard scamper into the end zone. The Black Knight offense was largely finished. The Cardinal offense was certainly not.
Ball State built a commanding 27-7 halftime lead scoring on all but one first half possession. Army's defense was helpless to stop the Cardinals. BSU scored on first half touchdown drives of 76 and 80 yards respectively. The Cardinals capped that 80 yard drive with another touchdown run from Banks, from six yards out, with just over a minute remaining in the half.
The offensive fireworks continued in the second half. Ball State booted a field goal to increase their lead to 30-7. Following an Army fumble, Wenning needed just one play too hook up with tight end Zane Fakes to run the lead to 37-7. Dixon would score his second touchdown with two minutes remaining in the third and Ball State kicker Scott Secor booted a 20 yard field goal early in the fourth.
Senior quarterback Keith Wenning, poised to rewrite the Ball State record books this season, threw for 325 yards and two scores. Were it not for a couple of dropped passes, those numbers could be even more impressive. Wenning's performance marked the eighth 300 yard passing effort of his Ball State career.
Wenning hooked up 7 different receivers Saturday. Jamill Smith, Willie Snead, Jordan Williams, and KeVonn Mabon all topped 60 yards receiving. Smith led the way with 83 yards on 5 catches and a score. Mabon especially shined with 72 yards after catching just two balls for 12 yards a week ago.
With leading rusher Jahwan Edwards out with concussion-like symptoms, carries were split between Banks and freshman running back Teddy Williamson. Williamson turned heads rushing for 58 yards on 13 carries in his second game. Banks rushed for 51 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.
The heir apparent to Wenning behind center, Ozzie Mann, was able to take snaps late in the fourth with the game in hand. Mann threw five passes without a completion.
The Cardinal defense gave Army fits all day. A week after being exposed by a potent Illinois State offense, the Ball State defense seemed headed towards a similar game Saturday after yielding an early score. BSU quickly righted the ship however, bending, but not breaking. Army quarterback Angel Santiago was pulled in the fourth after throwing for 49 yards and rushing for another 37. Santiago's replacement, A.J. Schurr, was a bright spot for the Black Knight offense, completing 4 of 8 passes for 27 yards and adding another 41 yards on 5 carries in limited time.
That this Ball State offense can run up the score is a surprise to no one. Preseason MAC talk rated this prolific offense as perhaps the best in the conference. Question marks were abound however on the defensive side of the ball. Today the Cardinals swarmed the ball, forcing turnovers, and creating mayhem for the Army offense. Similar efforts will be necessary as we draw closer to conference play. Ball State's next foe is North Texas on September 14th. Jump on the bandwagon friends, we're running out of room. Chirp, Chirp!