Ball State falls short against No. 20 N. Illinois

Quarterback Keith Wenning and the Ball State Cardinals came up
about 30 minutes short against No. 20 Northern Illinois.

Up 24-20 at the half, the Cardinals were held to three
second-half points in a 48-27 loss Wednesday night.

”We just couldn’t keep the drives going,” Ball State coach
Pete Lembo said. ”We’d move the ball, have long drives and get on
their side of the field and then the drives would just kind of
stall. I think that was the different from the first half to the
second half.”

Wenning was 20 of 26 for 198 yards and a touchdown in the first
half.

”We knew what was on the line and it hurts,” Wenning said.
”We had too many mistakes. We’ll try to come back and eliminate
them.”

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was good from start
to finish.

”If Jordan isn’t in the conversation for the Heisman I don’t
know what people are watching, they were asleep,” Carey said. ”In
my estimation that trophy goes to the best player in the nation and
with the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in that
conversation.”

Lynch threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores.

”I feel like I’m improving every week,” Lynch said. ”I still
think the best is yet to come.”

Lynch threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Da’Ron Brown to break a
tie with 5:49 left, and the Huskies (10-0, 6-0 Mid-American) ran
the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 25 and their
conference run to 23. The 10-0 mark is their best since the 1963
team finished 10-0.

Lynch added a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:26 to go, and
defensive end Joe Windsor scored on a 49-yard interception return
with 46 seconds left.

Lynch was 26 of 32 for 345 yards and ran for 123 yards on 20
carries. Brown had 12 receptions for 209 yards, also catching a
58-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

”He’s a very good player,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said.
”He’s fast, he’s built like a linebacker, but he’s got tailback
speed. He’s got a lot of savvy.”

The victory preserved Northern Illinois’ hopes for a second
straight Bowl Championship Series appearance They played in the
Orange Bowl last season and are 15th in the BCS rankings. They need
to stay undefeated and pass Fresno State in the BCS to have a
shot.

Wenning was 35 of 49 for 324 yards for Ball State (9-2, 6-1).
Willie Snead had 12 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, and
Jahwan Edwards ran for 156 yards and a score.

The loss ended the Cardinals’ seven-game winning streak and
11-game MAC run.

The teams combined for three scores in the final 1:28 of the
first half.

Edwards’ 2-yard touchdown run – his school record 38th – gave
Ball State a 21-13 lead, but Lynch and Brown combined on the
58-yard touchdown strike with 1:13 left to make it 21-20.

Scott Secor lined a successful 43-yard field goal into the wind
with 30 seconds to go, and Sims missed a 52-yard try with a second
left, leaving the Cardinals up 24-20.

Ball State had the ball to start the second half, but stalled at
midfield and was forced to punt for only the second time.

Northern Illinois’ subsequent drive included a key third-down
10-yard pickup by Lynch as he escaped two defenders, a fourth-down
keeper for a first down at the Cardinals 47 and a fourth-and-goal
touchdown run from the 1 by tailback Cameron Stingily for a 27-24
lead.

Northern Illinois stopped Ball State at the 1, forcing the
Cardinals to settle for a 19-yard field goal that tied it at 27
with 3:07 to go in the third.

Lynch combined with Brown on a 54-yard pass to the Cardinals 10
early in the fourth quarter, but Brown fumbled and Ball State
safety Brian Jones recovered at the 13.

Lynch and Brown teamed again for the go-ahead score with 5:49
left.

The Huskies resume play next Wednesday night at Toledo.

An estimated 240 Ball State students made the trip after
Michigan coach Brady Hoke, a former Ball State coach, and former
player Jason Whitlock each donated $5,000 for bus
transportation.