When the Western Michigan Broncos kicked off to the Ball State Cardinals, each team was 2-2. Western Michigan earned the right to be 3-2 after a 55-3 win against the Cardinals. The Broncos were coming off of two consecutive home wins against the Idaho Vandals and Wagner. Ball State has wins against the UAB Blazers and Tennessee Tech.
Facing a number of injuries, Jack Milas took over the reigns for Ball State at quarterback instead of Riley Neal. Heavy pressure on Milas, coupled with tight coverage of the receivers, kept the Cardinals from getting anything going. Milas put up 170 of Ball State’s 175 passing yards. Milas threw one interception, although it was really a mid-catch strip from the Broncos.
Although Malik Dunner was listed as the starter, Caleb Huntley led the Cardinals in rushing with 33 yards. The Cardinals were held in check by Robert Spillane and the Bronco linebacker crew. Ball State finished with 63 yards rushing. Ball State struggled to run the ball all night, eventually abandoning the run in favor of quick yardage passing.
Following two weeks of successful passing, Jon Wassink was able to pass with ease tonight. Darius Phillips saw some reps on offense as well as doing everything else. He finished with two receptions and 16 yards. Keishawn Watson led the Broncos in receiving with 93 yards and two touchdowns. Wassink finished 14-for-20, 240 yards and three touchdowns in the air. Donnie Ernsberger caught the other touchdown pass with his 67 yards receiving. Reece Goddard and Alex Mussat each saw some playing time in the second half as Tim Lester put in the substitutes. Mussat also put up five yards on his only pass attempt.
Western Michigan looked far better running the ball than in previous weeks. Led by Luke Juriga and Chukwuma Okorafor, the Bronco offensive line was dominant. Using a more effective zone blocking scheme left massive holes for all four running backs to sprint through. The Broncos finished with 169 yards rushing. Jamauri Bogan led the Broncos with 69 yards rushing. Jarvion Franklin, Davon Tucker, and LeVante Bellamy each scored rushing touchdowns.
Scoring started for the opening kickoff, when Ball State’s Justin Hall fumbled on the kickoff return. Obbie Jackson picked it off the turf and ran it back for a 21-yard touchdown. A couple minutes later, Keishawn Watson hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jon Wassink to extend the Bronco lead. Western Michigan’s LeVante Bellamy followed up with another seven-yard rush into the end zone, giving the Broncos a 21-0 lead. Later in the second quarter, Jarvion Franklin capped off a lengthy drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Just before halftime, Josh Grant added a field goal for a 31-0 lead.
Ball State tried to pull off some trickery with an onside kick to start the half, giving the Broncos great field position. Donnie Ernsberger plowed his way 22 yards for a touchdown from a Jon Wassink pass. Ball State responded with a quick, long drive ending in a 28-yard field goal. The Broncos zipped down the field on the ensuing possession. Wassink finished the drive with another touchdown pass, this time for 52 yards. An 87-yard interception return from Western Michigan’s Malik Rucker set the Broncos up for another Josh Grant field goal, this time from 33 yards away.
The fourth quarter started with the score 48-3 in favor of the Broncos, who had their substitutes in for most of the game. Ball State’ punter Nathan Snyder mishandled the ensuing punt, giving the Broncos prime field position. Davon Tucker ran the ball in for another Bronco score from 11 yards out.
Ball State’s Morgan Hagee missed a 32-yard field goal, but made a 28-yard one in the second half. Cardinal punter Nathan Snyder kicked away eight times in the game, none of which made it in the Bronco 20-yard line. Western Michigan’s Derrick Mitchell punted four times, twice downing the ball at the one-yard line. Bronco kicker Josh Grant made all seven extra points and two field goals: one from 33 yards away and the other from 43 yards. Darius Phillips did not play nearly as large a role in this game on special teams, being contained effectively by Ball State.