Nate Davis completed 21 of 28 passes for 326 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead Ball State (2-0) to a 35-23 victory over Navy (1-1) on Friday night in Muncie, Ind. Dante Love caught two of the touchdowns to go with his 165 yards receiving as Ball State rolled up 493 yards on the Mids. Jarod Bryant scored two touchdowns but it wasn't enough for Navy, who will take on Duke next Saturday in Durham.
It didn't take long for Ball State to put points on the board against a more experience but still porous Navy defense. Davis hit Love on the second play of the game for a 61-yard scoring strike to put the Cardinals up 7-0.
Navy answered with a 10-play, 31-yard drive capped off by a Matt Harmon career-long 49-yard field goal.
However, Navy's defense could not contain Ball State's high-powered offense as Davis led the Cardinals on another long scoring drive. This time it took Ball State over three minutes to find the end zone, and once again it was Love doing most of the damage along the way. Love finished off this drive with a six-yard scamper.
The Midshipmen once again answered, driving down the field all the way inside of the Ball State 10-yard line. However, the drive stalled and Navy had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Harmon.
With the score 14-6 in favor of Ball State, Navy got a break when Davis threw one of his very few poor passes of the evening. On the receiving end was Navy cornerback Blake Carter who made a good read on the play and intercepted the ball at the Mids' 32-yard line.
Navy's third try on offense, highlighted by a 15-yard run by Greg Shinego and a 12-yard run by Shun White, once again stalled in the red zone. Harmon was called on again for a field goal – which he made from 28 yards out.
Only down by five points now, Navy got its second break of the night when Dante Love mishandled a Jon Teague kick-off which resulted in Ball State starting their ensuing drive from their own eight yard line. With 92-yards to go for a touchdown, a stop would have been huge for the Navy defense. But it wasn't to be as Davis once again marched the Cardinals down the field with some help from running back MiQuale Lewis, who finished the game with 120 yards on 21 carries. This drive ended with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Briggs Orsbon.
Navy would finally find the end zone on its next possession due mainly to a 45-yard run by fullback Eric Kettani which put the Mids on the Ball State 19-yard line. Three plays later, Bryant rushed 14 yards for the score to bring Navy back within five points, 21-16.
A Ram Vela interception with less than a minute before halftime kept Navy within striking distance, and as it turned out, it didn't take long for the Mids to do just that.
On the first play of the second half, Shun White took a pitch from Bryant and raced 71 yards to the Ball State 11 yard line. Three plays later, Bryant called his own number and put the Mids up for the first time in the game, 23-21.
Their lead would not last six minutes as Davis, Love and Lewis shredded the Navy defense for an 11 play, 71-yard scoring drive. This drive was capped off by another Davis to Love scoring strike.
Navy's offense answered with another impressive drive fueled by White, who caught a 27-yard pass from Bryant and rushed for 28 yards on four carries to help the Mids advance the ball to the Ball State 3-yard line. With time running out in the third quarter, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo decided to go for it on fourth and one. However, Bryant's keeper was stuffed for no gain and Navy turned the ball over on downs. It was the turning point of the game as Navy would never get into the red zone again.
Ball State completed the scoring on the night by marching 97 yards on their ensuing possession with Davis connecting with tight-end Darius Hill on a 35-yard touchdown.
Navy's next two drives ended in an interception and a failed attempt on fourth down.
Shun White led the Mids with 128 yards on 13 carries, and Bryant had 94 yards to go with his two scores.
Navy will next face the Duke Blue Devils next Saturday in Durham.