It's hard to fall lower than this.
Once again, the Ball State defense held their ground for throughout the first quarter, but it all broke down as the Georgia State Panthers rolled off 17 second quarter points to take control of the game.
Ball State's zone defense was overwhelmed by Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who finished with 412 yards passing, and completed 28-for-38 of his passes on the day.
Things started well enough for the Ball State defense, as the Cardinals held Georgia State to two straight three-and outs to begin the game, which allowed Riley Neal and the Ball State offense to obtain an early 3-0 lead.
Arbuckle would find the holes in the defense on the Panthers' next drive, leading the offense down the field, where running back Kyler Neal would finish off the drive with a five yard touchdown scamper that occurred with just 15 seconds left in the opening quarter. Ball State would respond as James Gilbert served as the workhorse that moved the Cards down the field. Neal would find Dylan Curry in the back of the end zone, and give Ball State the lead back.
Georgia State would roll off 17 unanswered points in response, including two touchdowns by Arbuckle, and a 50-yard field goal by Will Lutz that came as the half expired.
Ball State threw away their chances to get back in the game in the second half. On the opening drive of the third, the Cards moved the ball, but were forced to punt in Georgia State territory. The Panthers handed Ball State a gift on the very next drive, fumbling on their own side of the field, but the Cardinals would end up settling for a red zone field goal that cut the Georgia State lead to 24-13. Ball State's next chance came minutes later, as Riley Neal found a wide open Chris Shillings for a touchdown, but the play was called back due to offensive pass interference called near the line of scrimmage on Jordan Williams.
But the Ball State defense began to dig in as the second half continued. The Cardinals shut down the Panthers in the third quarter, and gave their offense an opportunity slowly fight their way back into the game.
It started as Corey Lacanaria returned a bouncing punt to near mid-field with about 12-and-a-half minutes left in the contest. Two plays later, Neal converted a pass to Mabon that moved the Cardinals inside the GSU 30. Moments later, Neal found Williams on a 19-yard touchdown pass to move within five with 10:41 remaining in the game.
Less than a minute later, Ball State would come up with another second half stop, and after a good punt the Cardinals would begin their drive to take the lead from their own 16. Just a couple of plays later Ball State lost Mabon to an apparent knee injury as Neal's pass for him fell incomplete, and that forced the Cardinals to punt it back to Georgia State.
After forcing another three-and-out, Ball State's stop was negated by Roughing the Kicker, which moved the Panthers offense to near mid-field, and gave them another opportunity to drain more clock. Luckily, the Cardinals kept themselves in the game by stopping the Panthers on their next set of downs.
After a partially blocked punt, Neal and the Ball State offense took over from their own 27 with under four minutes left, but went three-and-out and were forced to punt back to Georgia State with 3:37 left in the game.
The Cards still had all three of their timeouts, and looked to stop Georgia State to another quick stop, but were unable to as Arbuckle found wide-out Donovan Harden for a 65 yard gain that put the Panthers inside the Ball State five.
Georgia State would seal the game two plays later as Arbuckle found pay dirt on a one-yard quarterback sneak to extend the Panthers' lead to 31-19 after the extra point was converted with 2:13 remaining.
Needing a touchdown, an onside kick and another touchdown, Neal was unable to lead the Cardinals down the field, as the true-freshman threw a pick to seal the deal.
Neal finished 28-for-48 on the day for two touchdowns and one interception, but only averaged a bit over four yards a completion, as the Ball State offense was unable to pull off any big plays throughout the game.
Gilbert and Darian Green combined for 120 yards on the day for the Cards.
Ball State will play Central Michigan next at home while Georgia State travels to play Arkansas State on the road.