The Ball State Cardinals advanced to 2-3 (1-0 MAC) after the Northern Illinois Huskies (1-4, 0-1 MAC) literally handed the Cardinals the ballgame.
It wasn’t so much that Ball State won the game as much as it was NIU lost the game. The Huskies played one of their worst halves of football possibly ever. And, despite out-gaining the Cardinals by 111 yards, their complete meltdown in the second half allowed the Ball State Cardinals to claim the Bronze Stalk Trophy for the first time since 2008, with a 27-20 win.
NIU dominated the first half and walked into halftime with a 17-3 lead. They had out-gained, out-scored, and out-played Ball State. But then, in the second half, the Huskies shot themselves in the foot time after time after time after time after time after time.
In the first half, Huskie running back Tre Harbison had a fantastic performance; rushing 13 times for 123 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The NIU defense held BSU quarterback Drew Plitt to 34 yards on 4/11 passing and allowed 158 total yards to the Cardinals.
Then the second half happened.
Again, it wasn’t so much that Ball State outplayed NIU...but rather NIU hurt themselves, allowing Ball State to win. The Huskies committed a season-high 12 fouls that netted 111 yards, most of which came in the final 30 minutes, and really allowed BSU to gain momentum and keep it.
NIU turned the ball over three times in the second half and, between that and the massive amount of flags, never had a chance. They started multiple drives inside their own 10-yard line, turned the ball over twice inside the 35-yard line, and simply made dumb mistakes over and over (like touching the ball on a kickoff before it bounced out of bounds at the 3-yard line)...due to the mental mistakes and long field, NIU simply couldn’t get anything.
On the other hand, Ball State had a short field for most of the second half and capitalized on their few opportunities.
Despite Plitt finishing the game an abysmal 4/14 with 34 yards and only attempting three passes in the second half (all of which were incompletions) Ball State was able to kick three field goals and score two TDs.
It was Cardinal running back, Caleb Huntley, who had a great game and allowed them to claim the trophy. He rushed 35 times for 157 yards and two scores (97 yards and both touchdowns coming in the second half), including a 45-yard scamper early in the fourth that gave BSU a 24-17 lead.
Total yards: 269 (34 passing, 235 rushing)
Plitt: 4/14, 34 yards; 12 rushes, 23 yards
Huntley: 35 carries, 157 yards, 2 TD
Ryan Rimmler: 4/5 on field goals (long 42), 1/1 XP
Total yards: 388 (241 passing, 147 rushing)
Ross Bowers: 21/43, 241 yards, INT
Harbison: 22 carries, 146 yards, 2 TD
Daniel Crawford: 5 catches, 85 yards
Ball State will travel to Eastern Michigan next Saturday to take on the Eagles while the Huskies will hit the road once again as they travel to Athens, Ohio to take on the Ohio Bobcats