The teams combined for Scheumann Stadium records of 89 points and 1,164 yards. When the dust settled, Eastern Michigan was on top 48-41.
“If this is Mid-week MAC-tion, holy cow!,” EMU head coach Chris Creighton said. “This is really the first time that Eastern Michigan has really been a part of this, and it was crazy. It did really come down to the last drive.”
Riley Neal's 1-yard touchdown . . .
Ball State (4-6, 1-5 MAC) moved the ball to midfield in the closing seconds, but DaQuan Pace intercepted Neal's final desperation pass. It was one of five turnovers -- four in the second half -- that Ball State ultimately could not overcome.
Senior receiver KeVonn Mabon did all he could in the final home game of his career. He scored three first-half touchdowns -- two receiving and one rushing -- as Ball State built a lead. He finished with a career-high 12 receptions for 149 yards while moving into second place on BSU's career receptions list.
The Cardinals trailed 5-3 in the final turnover margin, but they were winning that battle early. Ball State cashed in two Eastern Michigan fumbles for touchdowns on its way to building a 21-0 lead.
“The first quarter was not pretty, but in the second quarter we started getting our stuff together and moving forward, we worked hard and just continued on through that,” Creighton said. “We can play with that, and that gave us a chance. Crazy was definitely the word I would use to explain this game for us tonight.”
EMU (6-4, 3-3 MAC) stormed back with 19 unanswered points before Mabon's third touchdown gave the Cardinals a 28-19 lead headed into halftime.
Eastern Michigan then scored the first 21 points of the second half to lead 40-28 early in the fourth quarter before Ball State got things going again. Neal extended a play with his legs and hit senior Cywettnie Brown for a 62-yard touchdown to pull the Cardinals within five.
The Ball State defense then held until Neal's touchdown run put the Cardinals back on top late. But there was too much time left for Eastern Michigan's final drive.
Starting with the ball on the 14 and no timeouts, Eastern went to work. Roback completed passes to Aristilde for five, Eriksen for five, and then Aristilde for 18 to get to the 42. An 11-yard strike across the middle to Kilby, followed by another 11-yard pass to Eriksen made it first and 10 from the 36.
Roback then launched his biggest pass of the night. After scrambling around in the pocket, he found Niupalau in coverage, and the California native came down with it on the one yard line. On the next play, Eriksen plunged in for the go-ahead score. The two-point conversion pass to Bailey II was good, giving Eastern a seven-point, 48-41 lead with just 27 seconds remaining.
Ball State had one final try, needing a touchdown and conversion to tie, but their final toss near the end zone was underthrown and picked off by Pace, sealing the 48-41 victory for the Eagles.
Ball State left critical points on the field that proved costly in the end. Neal lost the ball when diving for the pylon in the first half, and it went out of bounds for a touchback. In the fourth quarter, one drive before Ball State took the lead, Pace picked off a pass in the end zone for EMU.
Neal matched his career high with 393 yards on 30-of-50 passing and also had 65 yards on the ground. Running back James Gilbert, coming off five straight 100-yard rushing games, ran for 54 yards and a touchdown in the first half but then missed the second with an injury.
Eastern Michigan finished with 622 total yards, including 468 through the air, on 109 plays. It was the fourth-highest total offense by EMU in program history and the most since 2012.
EMU quarterback Brogan Roback threw 71 passes, completing 37 of them (both career highs). Roback’s aerials reached the end zone three times.
On the receiving end of his passes were 10 different wide outs, led by redshirt freshman Dieuly Aristilde, who had his second straight 100+ yards receiving day with 107 yards on six catches.
Roback tossed one touchdown to junior Sergio Bailey II, while the other two were hauled in by redshirt junior Dan Bucshman. The pair were the first TD catches of his career.
On the ground, redshirt sophomore Ian Eriksen was the bell cow, toting the ball 25 times for 109 yards, his second 100-yard rushing effort of the season and his career. He also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and had a career-high 71-yards receiving on five catches.
Ball State finished with 542 total yards. Brown joined Mabon with more than 100 yards receiving, giving the Cardinals two wideouts over the century mark for the first time since 2013.
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics and EMUEagles.com)