Both teams were winless going into Saturday's game. Eastern Michigan (0-7, 0-4) took an early lead when Ben Thayer caught a 3-yard scoring pass from Kyle McMahon. The Eagles held the lead until the last two minutes of the game.
That's when Sykes ran 37 yards for a score to put the Cardinals (1-7, 1-3) on top. He earlier scored on runs of 6 and 51 yards.
MiQuale Lewis was the Cardinals' leading rusher with 301 yards and a touchdown on a 48-yard run. The margin of victory came from a Ball State safety in the fourth.
Corey Welch scored for the Eagles on a 12-yard run and DeAnthony White added a 10-yard rushing score.