After allowing 36 points a week ago versus VMI, the Ball State Cardinals' defense was a no more than a sieve versus an explosive Texas A&M offense on Saturday night.
The warning signs were there from the beginning. The Aggies quickly marched down the field on their first possession, taking them just two minutes and 36 seconds to punch it into the end-zone.
Ball State's first drive gave fans a glimmer of hope, as running back Darian Green broke off two straight runs of 47 and 26 to give the Cardinals' a first-and-goal from inside the Texas A&M one-yard line. Jack Milas then rushed his teammates to the line of scrimmage and attempted a quick quarterback sneak that was promptly stopped by the Aggies' defense. Two more rushing attempts failed to see BSU cross the goal line, and the Cards had to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
With the lead being cut to 7-3, Kevin Sumlin's squad wasted no time and poured the points down on the Cards. At the end of one, it was 28-3, by halftime, the lead swelled to 49-3.
The Cardinals came out to start the second half by finding the end zone, as Darian Green capped off the 74 yard drive with a six-yard run.
Jack Milas was benched near halftime for the younger Riley Neal, who struggled just as much at first, but would eventually lead both of the Cardinals' touchdown drives.
Neal provided a spark for the Ball State offense throughout the third quarter, leading two scoring drives and beginning another before the quarter ended. As the teams were switching sides at the end of third, Neal was embraced by head coach Pete Lembo with the two smiling and laughing in conversation.
Neal was unable to get the Cards in the end zone on that drive, but another BSU field goal cut the score to 49-16.
Milas's numbers played a large part in why he was sat. Much like Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon a week ago versus Illinois, Milas struggled from the onset. The Ball State starter finished just 1-for-8 for five yards and an interception. In comparison, Neal, who played over half of Saturday night's contest, finished 11-for-19 for 116 yards. Neal utilized his legs as well, going for 57 yards on the ground.
The Cardinals had four different players run the ball seven times or more, with Darian Green gaining a huge step up on Teddy Williamson by running for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown at the "Home of the 12th Man". James Gilbert also gained valuable playing time in the second half, rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown on a stout A&M defense.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals would outscore the Aggies 20-7 in the second half.
The Cards defense gave up over 500 total yards of offense versus the Aggies tonight, with A&M using four different quarterbacks, as well as allowing Kwame Etwi to rush for 116 yards on the evening.
Ball State travels to Eastern Michigan next, while the Aggies stay at home to battle Nevada.