Cardinals stunned by late touchdown

Ball State gave up too many big plays in a 37-30 loss to Toledo on Homecoming.

Ball State cometh, and Toledo taketh away.

Just 15 seconds after Ball State had dramatically taken the lead from Toledo, the Rockets scored on a 51-yard pass play from Aaron Opelt to Stephen Williams with 27 seconds left in the game to leave the Cardinals – and the crowd - stunned as the Rockets won 37-30 on BSU's Homecoming.

There was nothing special about the final scoring play. After Toledo returned a short kickoff to its 49-yard line, Williams ran a go route on the left sideline and beat cornerback Koreen Burch as Opelt placed the ball perfectly into Williams' arms. Ball State safety Sean Baker also wasn't fast enough to get over the top of the coverage.

"You can't play on the back end like that, not at this level," Ball State coach Stan Parrish said. "They threw it over their heads. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that."

Just 15 seconds earlier, Ball State had seemingly pulled a rabbit out of the hat. On a 3rd-and-6 play from the 10-yard line, Ball State QB Kelly Page found Torieal Gibson on a slant pass to make the score 29-28 with 42 seconds left in the game.

The Cardinals surprisingly went for two, and executed the Statue of Liberty to perfection as MiQuale Lewis took the handoff out of Kelly Page's arms and scampered into the end zone for a 30-29 lead.

"I made up my mind at midfield that we were going to play to win because we couldn't stop them," Parrish said. "As much as a failure the defensive backs were late in the game, the kickoff coverage gave them different opportunities to call the plays they did.

"We won the game twice and didn't put it away."

With 8:34 remaining in the game, Ball State had seemingly taken control of the game after Lewis scored from two yards out to give Ball State a 29-22 lead. The play was set up by Charlie Todd's interception of Opelt, who took the play 57 yards to the 4-yard line.

The defense on that play was a thing of beauty. Baker picked up Opelt's top target, DaJuane Collins, out of the backfield. Forced to roll back to his left, Opelt tried to go across the field to his receiver and Todd stepped in front of it.

However, Ian McGarvey missed the ensuing extra point. The miss ended McGarvey's school record 81 straight PATs.

That would be the last play the defense made. From that point on, Opelt was a machine, going 6-for-6 for 125 yards and three touchdown passes in the final 8:34.

"You've got to make the adjustments and play better," BSU defensive end Robert Eddins said. "Nothing else to it. A lot of big plays were caused by a lot of things. He had a lot of time on some of the big plays and was able to throw the deep ball. There are a lot of things we just got to clean up."

Opelt was 30-of-38 for 422 yards and five touchdown passes.

Following BSU's score, Toledo scored quickly as Opelt hit Williams again for a deep touchdown pass, that one for 51 yards to tie the game at 29.

Big plays were a theme for the Rockets. On their first scoring drive, the Rockets converted 3rd-and-25 and 3rd-and-22 plays for first downs.

The defense only sacked Opelt one time as opposed to five for Page.

The BSU defense put very little pressure on Opelt and rarely blitzed. No matter if BSU was in man-to-man or zone, Opelt found the open defender.

"Those third and longs should never happen, should never give those up," Eddins said. "A lot went into that loss. They shouldn't have scored in the second half. We let them back in. The offense scored more than enough points. We just got to play better."

There may be some cause of concern for Page. The redshirt freshman was hit hard and often by Toledo's defense. On the day, Page was 25-of-41 for 234 yards and two touchdown passes.

McGarvey knocked down three field goals for the Cardinals to keep them within striking distance.

"We've played our butts off for three straight weeks but we've got to keep on pressing," Parrish said. "Of course I'm worried about our team and that falls on me."


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