Ball State’s 30-24 overtime victory against Western Michigan on Saturday was one for the ages according to second-year Cardinal coach Pete Lembo.
The game included a sure-thing field goal that was shanked by the Broncos.
A sure-thing touchdown by Ball State running back Jahwan Edwards that wasn’t.
A Cardinal first down and goal from the one-yard line in which Lembo’s group came away with absolutely no points.
And finally a game-sealing interception by Ball State linebacker Tony Martin that ultimately helped Western Michigan.
“They battled back and overcame some bizarre stuff,” Lembo said. “Some things, quite frankly, that I haven’t had happen to me in (140 career games).”
None of which was more “bizarre” than this: The Cardinal defense was mostly responsible for winning this game.
Yes, that Cardinal defense. The same unit that is currently ranked 112th out of 120 NCAA Division I football programs in total defense.
“There was stop after stop after stop by the defense,” Lembo said. “It was amazing.”
The “amazing” part was that a unit that was so inept (as it has been this season) throughout the first 25 minutes of the game, could prove to be so effective the final 35 minutes.
Western Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) ran roughshod over the Cardinals (4-3, 2-2) in building a 21-7 second quarter lead. However, from the 5:01 mark of the second quarter to the final second when the Broncos booted a game-tying 52-yard field goal, Western Michigan did not score a single point.
“I hope that we can build on this defensively,” Lembo said. “Because that was a pretty darn good half of football.”
Of the initial five Western Michigan offensive series, the Broncos scored touchdowns on three of them. However, following a nine-play, 80-yard drive that put the visitors ahead by two scores, the Cardinal defense hunkered down.
Ball State forced Western Michigan to punt on four consecutive drives and also picked off a Bronco pass in the final minute.
“I thought that we did a great job of responding to adversity,” Ball State linebacker Travis Freeman said. “We had penalty after penalty and couldn’t get off of the field. That is adversity. And you are not only going to face adversity on the football field, you are going to face it in life. You can accomplishing anything if you just keep digging at it and today our defense did that.”