It was not the prettiest of contests, but they don’t all need to be as long as the result falls the right way, which it did for the Ball State Cardinals (1-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) on Saturday afternoon in a takedown of the Murray State Racers 31-0 at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Indiana.
The first two possessions went about as well as it could have for the Cardinals, forcing a turnover on downs on the first possession, and then opening the scoring account with a 13-yard Brady Hunt touchdown reception to cap off a 43-yard drive to go up 7-0 at the 11:40 mark of the first quarter.
Unfortunately for the Cards, their momentum got stunted, as seven of the next nine possessions for both sides resulted in punts— though the other two were a turnover on downs and an interception forced by Ball State’s defense.
It was that defense which allowed the offense time enough to figure itself out, as the Cardinals would finally find the endzone with 7:59 remaining in the first half, as Tanner Kozoil would cap an eight-play, 55-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown reception to double up the Cards lead to 14-0.
Ball State would tighten up on offense in the third quarter, putting together two long, sustained drives to post 10 more points on the scoreboard, with a nine-play, 75-yard drive lasting over four minutes to set up a Jaylon Jackson touchdown reception, and a 10-play, 76-yard drive to set up a 30-yard Ben VanGunten field goal kick.
It was fairly elementary from there, as the Cardinals would score one last time on a Carson Steele one-yard in the fourth quarter on yet another grindy drive, establishing dominance on an 11-play, 53-yard drive lasting nearly five minutes.
Murray State would have three possessions to try and get at least one score on the board, but failed to move the ball effectively, going for an interception, a turnover-on-downs and a fumble to end the game— and a chance at ending the shutout.
John Paddock finished 27-of-44 for 227 yards, three touchdowns and a late interception for the Cards at quarterback, while running back Carson Steele picked up 141 yards on 25 carries, scoring once. Jayshon Jackson (64 yards) and Tanner Kozoil (59 yards) tied for the team lead in receptions and also brought in touchdowns.
Sidney Houston was hard to stop on the Cards defense, with seven tackles and a tackle-for-loss. Joshua Tarango also had seven tackles, with a half tackle-for-loss. Nic Jones nabbed two interceptions, a pass break-up and a field goal block to go along with two tackles, single-handedly disturbing the Racers offense.
Issac McNamee, who came into the season as the backup for Murray State, was pressed into duties due to a prior injury to the incumbent, finishing 7-of-22 for 57 yards and two interceptions, with DeQuan Dallas and Dameon Gomes each nabbing two receptions and 47 of the team’s 68 yards. Running back Jawan Northington had 71 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Jamari Dailey led all tacklers with 11 stops and a pass break-up, while DaVonte McKee and Eric Samuta (three QB hits) each had eight tackles. Nick Walker had the lone Racer sack of the day to go along with seven tackles, while Cam Brown pulled down an interception late in the game.
Ball State will now prepare for a Saturday night bout with Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Georgia. while Murray State will face Eastern Illinois, a Top 25 FCS who gave EMU a scare in Week 1, on Saturday afternoon.