In two weeks Ball State fans have gone from high-fiving everyone they know to just hoping for a .500 finish to the regular season.
I was there when NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch took off on a 71-yard touchdown run where my friends were on our way out before he crossed the end zone.
There are times where as a fan you just need to get the heck out of Scheumann Stadium and hit the restaurants. These are losses over the last four seasons where we try to forget as quickly as possible.
- New Hampshire in 2009
- Toledo in 2009
- Liberty in 2010
- Western Michigan in 2010
- Eastern Michigan in 2010
- Temple in 2011
- And now Northern Illinois in 2012
Some of those losses were embarrassing defeats to FCS teams or winless Eastern Michigan. Others were disasters on homecoming.
Saturday’s loss was different. Ball State did not play terrible like in the above calamities. They were just told to sit down and shut up by the defending MAC champions. Northern Illinois treated Ball State like they were a rebellious kid. Now Ball State must go back to their room without dinner.
The defense is still taking a bulk of the blame but the offense and special teams let them down too.
A fumble in NIU territory, a touchdown called back on a holding penalty, two interceptions, and two missed field goals killed this game. The offense had first and goal twice in the first half and only came away with field goals.
This was Ball State’s chance to take ownership of the MAC West but instead it must pay rent to NIU for another year.
Can Ball State still win the MAC West? Technically yes, but realistically no.
A 6-2 conference record is usually what is needed to win the division and the Cardinals all ready have two MAC losses. With three of their final five MAC contests on the road Ball State is not going to run the table.
The new goal is to get to seven wins. Going 6-6, as we learned last year, will not earn Ball State a bowl invitation. That will especially be the case if the team can only draw 11,238 fans to a Saturday afternoon game. Bowl representatives want to sell tickets making Ball State a poor choice. Our lack of fan base may ultimately prevent the program from achieving what the few diehards want. Tom Davis was right.
What happened Saturday was a rude awakening. The offense went out on to the field down 28-23 late in the fourth. We all thought quarterback Keith Wenning would pull off a miracle drive and hit receiver Willie Sneed in the left corner of the north end zone again.
Instead the offense went three and out, giving the ball back to Northern Illinois at midfield with about 4 minutes to go.
This is beyond disappointing. Beating Northern was a huge goal and in many ways would have been more important than beating IU and South Florida.
It does not get any easier. Western Michigan is another coin flip game this Saturday. A loss will put this season into a tailspin. I believe this coaching staff will have the team ready but Western Michigan is a well coached team too.
That is just the way it is. The MAC is stronger than it has been in a long time and the Cardinals have the bad luck of playing every tough team the conference has to offer. Surviving with a winning record is the goal now.
Enjoy your stalk of corn Huskies. I guess it is better there than in Muncie where we would just burn it for ethanol.