For the Ball State Cardinals, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. A top-10 ranked opponent in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, fresh off a victory over a massive rival in the Michigan Wolverines, and facing their in-state MidAmerican Conference for the first time ever had trap game written all over it. And while the 24-16 margin was far from the experts in Vegas’ opinion of a massive Notre Dame win, the Cardinals head back to Muncie 1-1 all the same.
But not all losses are created equal and for this Ball State team, there are loads of positives to pull away from South Bend. To be in a one-possession game with 1:30 to go and kicking an onside kick is not something that seemed even remotely plausible given the string of losses, bad luck, and injuries that Ball State had to battle through to close last season. That sort of tight margin seemed even more improbable after Notre Dame rattled off a 74-yard drive in 1:54 to open the game with a 7-0 scoring drive. Ball State would steady themselves and fight to a 14-6 halftime deficit.
Offensively, Ball State looked to Riley Neal to champion the cause and did so on the ground and through the air. Neal finished with 180 yards passing and 35 yards rushing with 1 TD pass to go along with his 2 interceptions. The Cardinals rushing attack was paced by James Gilbert who finished with 72 yards. Justin Hall led the Cards in receiving with 71 yards on 6 catches.
For the Fighting Irish, QB Brandon Wimbush would finish with 297 yards through the air and 3 interceptions. Jafar Armstrong paced the Irish rushing attack with 66 yards and a TD, followed closely by Tony Jones Jr. with 61 yards and 2 TDs. Miles Boykin led the Irish receivers with 119 yards on 6 catches.
Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives for the Cardinals heading into next week’s noon game against the Indiana Hoosiers. Kickoff for that game is at noon.