Ball State tops VMI football in shootout, 48-36
Al Cobb threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns and Aaron Sanders had 13 receptions for the VMI Keydets, but the Ball State Cardinals grabbed a 17-point lead after three quarters and held on for a 48-36 win in non-conference college football action Thursday night in Muncie, Ind. The game was the season opener for both teams.
VMI (0-1) had closed to within 10 at 34-24 and had the ball early in the fourth quarter, but Ball State (1-0) was able to force a Cobb fumble deep in Keydet territory with 9:56 to go. The Cardinals then took over at the VMI 32 and ran James Gilbert six straight times, the last of which was a 14-yard TD, and the Keydets never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
The Keydets were led by Cobb, who had the second-most passing yards in school history and fell just one yard shy of throwing for 400 yards for the first time in his career. He finished 33 of 47 for 399 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Sanders added 118 yards on his game-high 13 catches and true freshman Dontae Mauck had 131 yards receiving on just two grabs, including an 80-yard first-half touchdown.
Defensively, Allan Cratsenberg (15), Ryan Francis (12) and Greg Sanders (11) all finished with double-digit tackles, and Alijah Robinson had the game’s lone interception.
After the Keydets went three and out to open the game, Ball State promptly marched 76 yards in 16 plays. The Keydet defense stiffened inside the 10, however, and forced a 24-yard Morgan Hagee field goal that gave BSU a 3-0 lead at the 8:16 mark. In direct opposition of what was to follow, the two teams would combine for just two first downs the remainder of the quarter, and the score remained 3-0, BSU.
Ball State extended the margin to 10-0 with a three-yard Darian Green touchdown run at the 12:09 mark of the second quarter, and after another VMI three and out, Hagee drilled a 27-yarder to push the lead to 13-0.
The momentum changed quickly on VMI’s next possession, however, as on the second play of the drive, Cobb found Mauck for his first collegiate reception, an 80-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13-7. The play was tied for the 10th-longest pass play in school history and it seemed to start the shootout, as Green scored again just 1:47 later to push the lead back to 13, 20-7.
The Keydets would take advantage of Robinson’s interception late in the half, as Dillon Christopher kicked a 31-yard field goal with 29 seconds remaining in the second quarter that accounted for the halftime score, 20-10.
BSU scored two touchdowns in the first 5:40 of the second half, helped in large part by a Keydet fumble on a kickoff return, and seemed to be on the verge of breaking the game open. The Keydets, however, fought back.
A quick four-play, 66-yard drive saw Brice Tucker bolt 36 yards for a touchdown that made it 34-17. That came with 7:34 on the third quarter clock, and after being pushed back to its own one-yard line on BSU’s ensuing punt, VMI promptly marched 99 yards in 17 plays. Cobb found Sanders for a six-yard touchdown to cap the incredible drive, an effort that put the Keydets back within 10, 34-24, with 12:18 left to play.
VMI got the ball back after forcing another punt, but on third and seven with 9:56 to go, Cobb fumbled the football after being hit. Osazuwamen Igbinosun recovered for the Cardinals, and six plays later, Gilbert marched in from 14 yards out to put the Keydets in a 17-point hold once again. Cobb did connect with Sam Patterson for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:55 left, but after a failed onside kick, Green put the game out of reach, 48-30, with a 46-yard touchdown run.
Derrick Ziglar had a one-yard TD run with 2:48 remaining to account for the final margin.
For the Cardinals, Green led the way with four touchdowns, three of which were on the ground as Ball State ran for 231 yards. Milas had 338 yards passing and Jordan Williams had eight receptions for 99 yards.
For the game, the two teams combined for over 1,100 yards of total offense, with BSU holding a 567-547 edge. The Cardinals used their rushing advantage, 229-103, to a crucial 32:27 – 27:33 edge in time of possession.
VMI football returns to action Sept. 12, as the Keydets play host to the Morehead State Eagles at Foster Stadium. Game time in Lexington is set for 1:30 p.m.