Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
The Indiana Hoosiers (2-0) were eager to end a three-game losing streak to the Ball State Cardinals (1-1) and they got off to a tremendous start, reeling off 30 straight points to take a commanding 30-0 lead early in the second half. However, Ball State roared back as Indiana's offense went into an ultra-conservative shell and the Cardinals scored 20 unanswered points to make things interesting. The Hoosiers held on for the final 3:06 and moved to 2-0 on the season with a 30-20 victory in front of a strong crowd at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
Continuing a theme from week one, Indiana's Marcus Oliver forced a fumble that was recovered by Jonathan Crawford on Ball State's first offensive possession. Griffin Oakes nailed a field goal to open the scoring. The Cardinals were forced into a three and out and IU's Richard Lagow connected with Nick Westbrook for a gorgeous 43 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Hoosiers. Ball State's offense found success and drove the ball inside of IU's ten but running back James Gilbert was stripped by Tegray Scales and Jonathan Crawford recovered his second fumble at the three-yard line. The teams traded possessions before a 48-yard run by Mike Majette helped set up a touchdown pass to Luke Timian that gave IU a 17-0 lead. True freshman Marcelino Ball intercepted a Riley Neal deep ball to give the Hoosiers defense three takeaways on the day and Griffin Oakes hit his second field goal of the game, this one from 49 yards, to close out the half with a 20-0 lead. The first half shutout was the first such half an IU defense has had since September of 2013 (Bowling Green). Indiana quickly added to the lead with a short pass that Nick Westbrook turned into a 79-yard scamper. A Ball State three and out and a 41-yard field goal from Oakes made the score 30-0 and it appeared the route was on. However, Ball State fought back, getting a pair of field goals from Morgan Hagee to make it 30-6. A blocked punt was recovered in the end zone to make it 30-13 and the Cardinals offense would finally find the end zone as Riley Neal connected with Jordan Hogue for a touchdown with just over three minutes to play to cap off the scoring.
Richard Lagow led the Indiana offense, completing 17-28 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Westbrook had a career-high 133 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns and Devine Redding topped 100 yards rushing (110 on 26 carries). For the Cardinals, Riley Neal struggled under pressure from IU's defensive line and completed only 15-30 passes for 231 yards with an interception and a touchdown. The Hoosiers did a nice job against running back James Gilbert, holding him to only 54 yards on 12 carries. IU outgained the Cardinals 463 to 371 but Ball State's three turnovers proved to be the difference in the contest. The Hoosiers were only 2-13 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down and their offensive line struggled once All-American Dan Feeney left with an undisclosed injury in the second quarter. Very conservative offensive play-calling, plus the special teams miscue helped the Cardinals get back into the game but the outcome was never truly in doubt as Indiana was up by at least ten points for the final 52 minutes of their home opener. This was far from perfect and giving up 20 unanswered points to Ball State was a worrying site but, after losing three in a row to the in-state MAC rival, getting a win was the most important task on the day.
The Hoosiers lost top wideout Simmie Cobbs to a foot injury in the first quarter and the aforementioned Dan Feeney to injury in the second quarter so their upcoming bye week appears to be coming at a great time. IU will next take the field on September 24 against the 2-0 Wake Forest Demon Deacons.