After committing four giveaways in last week’s 41-31 home loss to Florida Atlantic, head coach Mike Neu emphasized how it important it was for Ball State (1-3) to solve its turnover problems.
Despite doing just that on the road against North Carolina State (3-1), it was special teams that ruined Ball State’s chances at an upset in a 34-23 loss on Saturday night.
The Wolfpack blocked a Nathan Snyder punt while holding a 27-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter and returned it to inside the Ball State 10-yard line. The ensuing touchdown run by quarterback Matt McKay extended the lead to three scores and largely ended Ball State’s upset bid.
The Cardinals did manage to make things interesting late as running back Walter Fletcher scored on a three-yard touchdown run to narrow things to 34-23 with under five minutes left. The Cardinals managed to recover the ensuing onside kick and moved the ball into the red zone before quarterback Drew Plitt had his passed intercepted to seal the victory for NC State.
That tipped interception was the only major mistake made by the redshirt junior Plitt, who finished 35-for-57 with 333 yards.
Early on, Ball State looked like it came to Raleigh to play taking its first three offensive drive into Wolfpack territory, including ending its second drive with a Caleb Huntley touchdown to go up 7-3 early in the first quarter.
However, NC State responded by scoring the game’s next 24 points, including leading 20-7 at the halftime break.
Another tough special teams moment occurred early in the third quarter when Thayer Thomas returned a Snyder punt 76 yards for a touchdown. The line drive punt had little hang time and Thomas weaved his way through the Ball State coverage to take it to the house.
Matthew McKay finished 17-for-30 for 99 yards commanding the NC State offense, who finished 10-for-16 on third downs, a big reason in its offense’s success. Despite this, the Cardinals outgained the Wolfpack 417-390.
Ball State finishes non-conference play at 1-3 for the third consecutive season. Ball State will be back in action in two weeks when they travel to DeKalb, Illinois, to take on Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference opener. NC State travels to Florida State next Saturday.