After concluding the regular 2012 season in undefeated fashion on the road, the Illinois State football team fell to Ball State in its season opener Thursday night in Muncie, Ind., in a 51-28 decision.
Despite the Redbirds’ 21-9 lead in the second quarter, the Cardinals rallied for 42-consecutive points in the second half to seal the deal.
“There were a lot of things that were positive about the game … We hit a couple of big plays in the passing game and it led to some scores,” ISU head coach Brock Spack told WJBC radio. “[But] we made way too many errors in that second half to even have a chance against anybody, let alone a real good football team like Ball State. I think if you take away the turnovers and the penalties this game, it would have been a completely different game in the second half.”
ISU quarterback Jared Barnett finished the game 20-for-29 for 282 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his debut start as a Redbird. The ’Birds rushed for 74 yards on 36 carries cumulatively.
Anthony Warrum, Chick Chatham, Matt Meyers and Brian Athey each made receptions, and transfer Collin Keoshian added to the Redbird offense with a pair of scores on the ground.
Upon receiving the ball first to open the game, Barnett led the ISU offense on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to put the ’Birds up 7-0. During the drive, Barnett went 3-for-3 for 33 yards, linking up with wide out Phil Dudley for the catches.
Jonathon Miller contributed a pair of long runs during the push, including a 10-yard dash that put the Redbirds at first-and-goal from the BSU one-yard line, enabling Keoshian to score on the next play.
Ball State answered to the Redbird push with a touchdown of its own in the first quarter to make it a one-point game after Cardinal kicker Scott Secor missed the extra point.
ISU responded quickly, widening its lead to 14-6 with 3:50 to go in the first quarter after Barnett connected with Warrum for a 47-yard touchdown. The completion marked Warrum’s first career reception and touchdown, and marked Barnett’s first career touchdown pass as a Redbird.
With just 2:14 left in the first quarter, a 90-yard kickoff return put the Cardinals at first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but the Redbird defense forced BSU to take the field goal, decreasing the Cardinals’ deficit to 14-9.
Before the close of the first half, ISU tacked on another score when Barnett threw a touchdown pass to Meyers, giving ISU the 21-9 lead with 3:05 to go in the second quarter.
However, just as in the first quarter, Ball State responded, going 73 yards over 2:57 to add a speedy touchdown of its own with just four seconds to play in the half to get within 21-16 at the break.
The Cardinals took the game in the second half, opening with five consecutive touchdowns and no Redbird response until the last 25 seconds of the game when Keoshian ran the ball two-yards for an ISU touchdown. The Cardinals forced two Redbird turnovers and limited ISU to 106 yards of total offense in the second half, ultimately leading to a 51-28 Ball State victory.
“Early on … we were blocking well, throwing the ball well, catching it well and running the ball well. Later on, as an offense, we just didn’t step up when we had our chance to be on the field,” Barnett told WJBC radio.
“We learned a lot about our team,” Spack said. “We need to turn the page and move on and get better. We have a little extra time to get ready for the next game.
The Redbirds will not return to the gridiron for 16 days when they face Eastern Illinois for the annual Mid-America Classic game on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Charleston, Ill.