Cardinals stung by New Hampshire

There was a sign of things to come for the offense on Ball State's first two scoring drives. And it wasn't a positive one.

Starting both possessions inside New Hampshire's 40-yard line, the Cardinals failed to register a first down, settling for two Ian McGarvey field goals.

It went downhill from there. The Cardinals were outgained 322-127 as they lost to Football Championship Subdivision squad New Hampshire, 23-16 Saturday night.

Ball State only tallied 27 yards in the first half and -4 overall in the second quarter.

"If we were any good on offense, we'd have been up 17-0 or 20-0," Ball State coach Stan Parrish said. "But we're not good enough running it or throwing it."

Ball State showed some signs of life in the fourth quarter, however. With 8:50 left in the game, Page hit Seth White on a post pass in the end zone for a 21-yard score to cut UNH's lead to 23-16.

After forcing a 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Cardinals marched again.

Starting on their own 36-yard line, the Cards got all the way down to the New Hampshire 20-yard line – courtesy of a 15-yard pass from Kelly Page to Daniel Ifft on a fourth-down play.

However, things went south from there. Page nearly threw an interception on first down and on the following play; Page overthrew a wide-open Jeremy Hill on an inside-out route in the back corner of the end zone.

That was the Cardinals' last chance as Page got sacked on both third and fourth downs.

After running 15 times for 100 yards last week, MiQuale Lewis never got on track, only running the ball 14 times for 21 yards. Ball State's offensive line struggled to open running lanes – along with pass blocking – and Lewis looked a step slow.

"I'm impressed with New Hampshire's defense off the line," Lewis said. "We just got to play physical and have fun. We got a lot of playmakers on offense and we have to step up. We have a young team but can't make any excuses.

"I'm out here trying to keep them positive, have fun and that's the whole key."

After showing a little bit of promise at the end of last week's game against North Texas, Page struggled mightily – completing 15-of-34 passes for 114 yards.

Page never looked comfortable in his second career start. He was jittery and had trouble staying in the pocket – partially due to an inexperienced offensive line and partially due to Page himself being inexperienced.

Things didn't get much better in the second half.

Parrish said they never considered bringing in backup Tanner Justice.

"When you get down in (the red zone) and you dial up touchdown plays, you've got to hit them," Parrish said. "And he didn't hit them. He had chances throughout a lot of the game."

Parrish also said that Page took a step back tonight.

"You call plays and you get guys open and it's his job to put the ball to them," Parrish said. "And he didn't do that. What we can't do is point fingers right now. I've got to try to keep this club together."

Defensively, the 322 yards allowed was a huge improvement over last week's loss to North Texas.

"The first 10-12 minutes, they played great," Parrish said.

Page's game-ending interception was the third turnover of the second half for the Cardinals. Lewis fumbled on BSU's 9-yard line with 3:55 left in the third in which New Hampshire promptly responded with an 8-yard touchdown run by Sean Jellison and a 23-9 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Eric Williams fumbled and it was recovered by UNH at the 10-yard line. However, four penalties covering 40 yards send UHN back to a 3rd and goal from midfield and forced a punt.

Saturday's game was eerily similar to other losses to FCS (formerly I-AA) squads, including Western Illinois in 2000, Northern Iowa in 2001 and North Dakota State in 2006. Included in that was a near-loss to Indiana State in 2002.

McGarvey hit his third field goal of the game 3:40 into the third quarter to close the Cardinals within 16-9.

UHN got its first points of the game on a safety when Devon Jackson tackled Page in the end zone off a botched play.

A little over four minutes later (9:36 left in the first half), UNH QB R.J. Toman hit Joey Orlando for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 9-6 lead. Jellison scored his first TD with 3:16 left in the first half to give UNH a 16-6 lead.

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