After a promising first half, turnovers and missed chances doomed Ball State (1-2), as Florida Atlantic (1-2) pulled away for a 41-31 win.
Ball State committed four turnovers on the day, including three fumbles lost. Quarterback Drew Plitt also tossed an interception.
The Owls turned three of those turnovers into scores and they were critical in allowing FAU to pull away after a tight first half.
“To turn the ball over four times today, it is very difficult to do that and expect to win no matter what team you’re playing,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “Going forward we need to continue to emphasize (holding onto the football).”
Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison was more than satisfactory for the Owls as well, only being sacked once and going 33-for-41 with 366 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on the afternoon.
Robison’s favorite target was the 6’4” wide receiver John Mitchell who caught eight passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns.
“(FAU) has a lot of playmakers, a lot of weapons,” Neu said. “Give that young man credit, he did a great job making the play on that 50-50 ball.”
Plitt also recorded solid numbers for Ball State through the air, finishing 26-for-38 with three touchdowns and an interception. However, it was not near enough to help Ball State overcome its four giveaways.
“A lot of the things that happened today were self-inflicted errors, from mental mistakes to turning the ball over,” Plitt said.
Up only 21-17 at halftime, FAU stopped Ball State out of the break and then used the next drive to make it a two score game as running back Larry McCammon Jr. punched it in from one yard away to cap off a six play, 80 yard drive.
Ball State’s turnovers also came at incredibly inopportune times.
Down only 21-17, and with the ball in the red zone, Caleb Huntley fumbled off an end-sweep while reaching for the goal line. Less than two minutes later, FAU took advantage and made it a 28-17 contest.
Early in the fourth quarter Plitt fumbled the ball after being hit on his blindside by Rashad Smith. BSU was in FAU territory at the time and only trailed 34-24.
Down 41-24 late, Ball State would score to cut the gap to ten with just under four minutes left but it was too little too late.
After each team traded a pair of punts to start the game, Florida Atlantic got on the board first taking advantage of a Malik Dunner fumble to go up 7-0.
Ball State would respond via its defense. Outside linebacker Jordan Williams recovered two fumbles on two straight offensive plays for FAU, including a 55-yard scoop and score and the Cardinals suddenly had a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
“I think (Williams) has grown every week,” Neu said. “His athleticism was on display today and to recover that fumble in the open field and take it the distance shows his skill set.”
However, the lead didn’t last long as Robison found Mitchell again for a 33 yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to tie it back up at 14. Ball State nearly had a stop on that drive but a late hit call on 3rd and long extended the drive and allowed FAU to take advantage.
The Cardinals would then turn a 51-yard quarterback run by Plitt into a field goal to retake the lead 17-14. However, kicker Ryan Rimmler would miss from 41 later in the second quarter which set up FAU with the ball with just under two minutes left in the half.
The Owls proceeded to race up the field, using a nine play, 1:40 drive to retake the lead 21-17 into the break. The drive was capped by a four yard pass from Robison to Mitchell with just nine seconds left on the clock.
Next up, Ball State travels to NC State next Saturday to take on the Wolfpack at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. Florida Atlantic returns home to host Wagner.