Love Inspired Victory Moves Cards To 9-0

The nationally ranked Ball State football team used a dominating performance on both sides of the ball to defeat Mid-American Conference rival Northern Illinois 45-14. The victory allowed Ball State to lay claim to the Bronze Stalk Trophy in the inaugural trophy game. The home field victory, televised on ESPN2 in front of a national audience, improved the Cardinals to 9-0 overall.

MUNCIE, Ind. -- The nationally ranked Ball State football team used a dominating performance on both sides of the ball to defeat Mid-American Conference rival Northern Illinois 45-14. The victory allowed Ball State to lay claim to the Bronze Stalk Trophy in the inaugural trophy game. The home field victory, televised on ESPN2 in front of a national audience, improved the Cardinals to 9-0 overall, matching the best start in school history which was also accomplished in 1965.

The Ball State defense forced seven three-and-outs and two turnovers, never letting NIU (5-4, 4-2) get into an offensive rhythm. The Huskies were shut out in the first half as the Cardinals raced to a 21-0 lead, and improved to 5-0 in MAC play with the victory.

Junior quarterback Nate Davis paced the Cardinals offensively, tying a career-high with five total touchdowns (four passing and one rushing) and throwing for 300 yards.

After both teams failed to move the football successfully on their opening drives, the Cardinals put the first points of the game on the scoreboard. Ball State was facing a three-and-out until a roughing the kicker penalty against NIU gave the Cardinals a first down and kept the possession alive. Four plays later, Davis escaped NIU pressure and found freshman wide receiver Briggs Orsbon on the Huskies' one-yard line for a 33-yard completion, setting up junior running back MiQuale Lewis' 15th touchdown run of the season to give Ball State a 7-0 lead.

Following the first Ball State touchdown, each defense traded three-and-outs, leading to NIU starting at its own 45-yard line on its third possession. Senior defensive back B.J. Hill didn't allow the Huskies to take advantage of their field position, compiling his third interception of the season and eighth of his career three plays into the Huskies drive.

The two teams once again traded three-and-outs, setting up the Cardinals second scoring drive. Ball State drove down the field efficiently in five plays capped by 6-yard a touchdown pass from Davis to senior tight end Darius Hill.

After the BSU defense held the Huskies to three downs on their next possession, Ball State was able to capitalize once again. Davis opened the drive connecting with senior wide receiver Louis Johnson for 25 yards. The duo connected six times for 165 yards, four of which were good for at least 25 yards. The 165 receiving yards were a career-high for Johnson.

Davis hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Daniel Ifft for his second touchdown of the game and a 21-0 lead that BSU carried into halftime.

NIU appeared to make excellent halftime adjustments, running the ball down the field and scoring in six plays. Two Northern Illinois runs were good for 25 yards, one of which capped the drive for a touchdown by quarterback Chandler Harnish and cut the BSU lead to 21-7. Lewis and the Cardinals responded quickly, stopping any momentum the Huskies might have gained. Lewis opened the first BSU drive of the second half with a 64-yard run to the NIU 16-yard line. Four runs later, Davis crossed the goal line to increase the BSU lead back to 21 as neither team ran a passing play on their first possession of the second half.

Ball State continued to put momentum back in its favor by holding the Huskies to another three-and out. The Cardinals utilized excellent field position from the Northern Illinois 46-yard line and tacking on three more points on sophomore place-kicker Ian McGarvey's lone field goal of the game, giving BSU a 31-7 lead.

Following another NIU three-and-out, BSU covered 72 yards in three plays, scoring its fifth touchdown of the game and stretching its lead to 38-7. Davis connected to Johnson on a 71-yard pass but the play was overturned after official review clarified that Johnson stepped out at the NIU 37. 15 yards were tacked onto the play after a 15-yard personal foul. On the next play, Davis found Johnson again, this time in the end-zone on a 22-yard touchdown.

On their next possession, the Cardinals scored their final touchdown at the beginning of the final quarter on one play, a 20-yard Davis pass to Hill. Ball State benefited from a poor punt and an interference penalty on a fair catch, placing the Cardinals at the NIU 20. The Huskies added another touchdown with 1:56 remaining in the game on their best drive of the night. NIU went 95 yards on seven plays, capped by a 40-yard run by Ricky Crider, resulting in the final score of 45-14.

The Cardinals have allowed 20 points or less in six straight games and seven times overall so far in 2008.

Ball State will return to action Tuesday when the Cardinls travel to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Cardinals will play on ESPN2 for the second consecutive week.

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