Forgive the slight grammatical issue. It's more about a mentality; doing what it takes to pull yourself out of a bad situation and find success.
In the days of artificial turf fields, there was no mud to be found Saturday despite a downpour for most of the second . . .
Question: Can you beat the defending MAC champions on the road when spotting them a 14-point lead in the first 7 minutes?
Question: Can you win a rivalry game you haven't won in a decade while completing only four passes for 34 yards?
Answer: A resounding yes.
Ball State (2-3, 1-0 MAC) forced three second-half turnovers and Caleb Huntley got loose after the break, as the Cardinals overcame an unremarkable first half to claim the Bronze Stalk trophy for the first time since 2008. Out the mud.
"Great team win for us," Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. "It's been a long time since we had the Bronze Stalk trophy. We made the bus trip up here expecting to take that trophy back with us. I am proud of our football team for the fight and grit."
Huntley ran 35 times for 157 yards, two shy of his personal high, and two touchdowns, while Ryan Rimmler made good on a career-high four field goal attempts. The Ball State defense pitched a second-half shutout until the final minutes, and the BSU special teams units seemed to always leave the Huskies (1-4, 0-1 MAC) pinned against their own end zone.
The Cardinals outscored NIU 24-3 in the second half, including 21 unanswered points, despite not completing a single pass after the break. They only attempted three of them in weather conditions that made it difficult for either team to move the ball through the air.
"Obviously the first half was not a well-played half by us as a team in any phase," Neu said. "Our guys did a really great job coming out after halftime, knowing the conditions were going to be extremely tough. With heavy rain, you are obviously one-dimensional on offense at that point. I thought our defense and special teams were fantastic throughout the second half."
Jordan Williams' fumble recovery inside the NIU 10-yard line midway through in the third quarter was just the spark Ball State needed. Huntley found the end zone on the next play for the Cardinals' first touchdown of the day. To that point, they had mustered just two Rimmler field goals. The senior kicker's third make of the day two possessions later tied the game at 17 heading to the fourth quarter.
NIU's first eight possessions of the second half read like this: punt, punt, fumble, fumble, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs. Actually, after touchdowns on their opening two possessions of the game, including one set up by an interception on Ball State's first play from scrimmage, the Huskies managed just two field goals the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Ball State stuck with its ground game, and Huntley finally broke through. His 45-yard touchdown run less than 30 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Cardinals their first lead.
An Amechi Uzodinma II interception minutes later set up Rimmler's last field goal, as the Cardinals went up 10 points. NIU finally got on the board in the second half with a late field goal, but Williams recovered the Huskies' ensuing onside kick, and the Cardinals' celebration followed shortly.
"To look at those young men on the sideline and see a twinkle in their eye and tears running down their face … all the blood, sweat, tears, hard work and tough times we had together … it was certainly special at the end of the game," Neu said.
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)