The Battle for the Bronze Stalk once again ended in a one score game and this time went into double overtime, where the Ball State Cardinals were able to out-gun the Northern Illinois Huskies, 44-38.
The Huskies controlled the game early on, building up a 24-7 lead at the half and forcing three turnovers in the first 30 minutes of the game.
NIU (1-4, 0-1 MAC) wasn’t able to convert any of those turnovers into points, however, despite two of their possessions starting inside the 30. On the first interception, NIU started at the 11-yard line but only managed a handful of yards before their kicker, John Richardon, missed a field goal. Then, after going up 14-0, Ball State muffed the kickoff and NIU recovered it at the 25-yard line. Quarterback Ethan Hampton was hit from behind and fumbled it away just two plays later. The third turnover, another interception, happened as time expired in the half.
But once again, NIU only showed up for 30 minutes, as they allowed the Ball State Cardinals to claw their way back into the game in the second half.
Ball State (2-3, 1-1 MAC) intercepted Hampton to start the second half and then converted that turnover into a touchdown. Harrison Waylee would counter for NIU, running for his second of three touchdowns.
The Huskies would punt on their next two possessions while the Cardinals would find the endzone, bringing the score to within 3 points, 31-28, midway through the fourth quarter.
Waylee would push the lead back to ten with a 68-yard TD run - despite the loss he had a great game, running for 230 yards and three scores on 30 carries, with two TD runs of 50+ yards.
Ball State would go on an 11-play, 57-yard drive that ended with just a field goal but it made it a one score game. The Cardinal defense then got the stop they needed, on a 3-and-out, and gave the ball back to John Paddock with under two minutes to go. Paddock led the team down and hit tight end Tanner Koziol for his second TD, tying the game with just 38 seconds to go.
NIU got to midfield before trying a last second hail mary which was knocked away sending the game to overtime.
In the first OT, the Huskies got the ball and made it down to the 6-yard line where they were forced to go for another field goal. Richardson again missed, pushing it wide right and giving Ball State the ball with a chance to win.
The Cardinals played it safe in overtime and elected to line up for a field goal of their own on 4th-and-10. Kicker Ben VonGunten, who entered the day 8/8 on field goals, also pushed his game winning attempt right and we headed to double OT. Both kickers ended the day just 1/3 on field goal attempts.
In double OT, Ball State moved the ball easily, lining up 1st and goal from the 2-yard line. Steele was stuffed on first down. And again on second down. And again on third down....until the referees decided to call a VERY LATE touchdown call after pausing for around 10 seconds. Upon review, there were bodies blocking the ball so the play had to be upheld but he looked short, as he fell on his back with his head barely reaching the endzone, so the ball would have been nowhere near. They had to go for the 2-point conversion, which NIU knocked away, leaving the score at 44-38 Ball State...it was their first time they led.
On the Huskies’ counter, the offense once again struggled. A gain of 2 on first down, then a tipped pass, then a HUGE sack brought up 4th and 19. On fourth down, Hampton threw a pass to the sidelines for maybe 12-15 yards, which, even if it was caught, was nowhere near the yardage needed and Ball State walked away with the fourth largest comeback in school history.
Paddock finished the day 40/58 with 403 yards passing and three touchdowns with two picks. While Steele had three touchdowns and 77 yards on his 24 carries. Jayshon Jackson led all receivers with ten catches and 116 yards but Koziol had two scores and 89 yards on his seven grabs.
For NIU, Hampton went 17/29 for 194 with two TDs and an interception. In addition to Waylee’s big day, Justin Lynch ran the ball 15 times for 89 yards. Cole Tucker and Kacper Rutkiewicz were just about even in the passing game. Tucker had eight grabs for 87 yards while Rutkiewicz had six grabs for 89 yards and two scores.
Next week NIU heads home to host the Toledo Rockets while Ball State travels north to Central Michigan.