It was a slow start for the Ball State Cardinals (1-2), finding themselves in a 0-0 tie at the end of the first quarter, but they would wind up victorious over FCS rival Indiana State (0-3) at the end of 60 minutes, winning back the Blue Key Victory Bell by a final score of 45-7.
It was a true rock right to start the game, as both teams circled around one another like boxers finding tendencies. All four first-quarter possessions between the Cardinals and Sycamores wound up ending in punts, with neither team finding paydirt until early in the second frame.
Ball State running back Rico Barfield would be the one to find the scoring sheet first, finding himself at the back end of a 16-yard pass from Kadin Semonza to put the Cards up 7-0 with 12:13 remaining in the second quarter.
The Sycamores had a chance to get on the scoreboard themselves on the next possession, getting all the way to the BSU 25-yard line before having to settle for a field goal attempt. The kick by Steven Ruiz from 38 yards out failed, leaving a zero next to the visitor’s side of the ledger.
A lucky break came back ISU’s way in the form of a fumble by Kadin Semonza, recovered by Jarin Johnson. The Sycamores, once getting possession, had a hard time getting anywhere, setting up for a 43-yard field goal try after three plays. Ruiz once again hooked the kick, leaving ISU with zero points off the turnover.
Ball State would lead a nine-play, 69-yard drive off the miss, eventually setting up a field goal of their own. Unlike his counterpart, Jackson Courville would sent it true from 23 yards out, upping BSU’s lead to 10-0 with 1:34 remaining in the half.
Both teams would exchange touchdown drives in the middle of the third quarter, with a Rico Barfield rushing touchdown from 24 yards out getting countered by a 49-yard strike from Elijah Owens to Dakota Caton to put the tally at 17-7 with 5:55 to go in the penultimate period.
The Cardinals took the next drive and squeezed the air out of the ball with a 16-play, 75-yard drive lasting over seven minutes. Marquez Walker would be the one to cross the plane this time, with an 11-yard run to put BSU up 24-7.
The wheels fell apart after that for ISU, with an interception on the next drive creating an eight-yard passing touchdown for Tanner Koziol followed up by a defensive fumble recovery for a touchdown by Keionte Newsom after an 11-yard sack would essentially put the game out of reach.
BSU would score once more with the backups, as Charlie Spegal’s short TD run place the scoreboard at the final tally.
Keiden Semonza finished 17-of-22 for 137 yards and two touchdowns, with Kiael Kelly and Layne Hatcher getting run late. Kelly finished with a completion for no yards and 40 rushig yards on six carries, while Layne Hatcher went 0-of-1.
Marquez Cooper led the offensive effort, finally getting a chance to stretch his legs out after two contests vs. SEC competition. Cooper wound up with 177 yards and a score on 22 carries, with fellow back Rico Barfield picking up 48 yards on six carries. Tight end Tanner Koziol was far and away the favorite target, with seven receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. No other receiver had more than three catches.
Keionte Newsom, a recent convert to linebacker, led the Cardinals defense with eight tackles, a pass break-up and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Four Cardinal defenders had at least one tackle-for-loss, while Jack Sape led the team with 1.5 sacks. Ty “Red” Potts brought in the lone Cardinals interception.
Jackson Courville was 1-of-2 on his two field goal attempts.
For Indiana State, Elijah Owens finished the game 9-of-21 for 157 yards, a touchdown and an interception, with 49 gain yards rushing on 10 attempts. Harry Van Dyne led the Sycamores in receiving yards (80 yards) on three catches, while Dakota Caton (three catches, 49 yards) brought in the team’s lone touchdown.
Tee Hodge (nine rushes, 46 yards) and Plez Lawrence (six carries, 39 yards) split back responsibilities.
Maddix Blackwell once again showed his prowess, with 12 tackles to lead all defenders, including a tackle-for-loss. Five Sycamores collected at least one tackle-for-loss, with three players also collecting sacks. Antoineo Harris Jr. highighted that effort with two TFLs and a sack.
Steven Ruiz went 0-of-2 on field goal attempts for ISU.
Ball State, who will stay home, next sets their eyes on the Georgia Southern Eagles, while Indiana State travels to Murray State to play the Racers. Both games are scheduled for Saturday.