The Ball State Cardinals were blown out 38-17 by the Central Florida Knights in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl Friday night. Although they gave up nearly 500 yards of offense to the Knights, the Cardinals sloppy end to the first half was the reason for the lopsided score line.
Down 21-7 late in the opening half, Ball State was driving and got the ball inside Central Florida’s ten-yard line. However, the Cardinals promptly took a penalty and a sack pushing them out of the red-zone. From there kicker Steven Schott hooked a field goal wide left and gave the ball back to Central Florida. Blake Bortles quickly marched the Knights down the field and threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Latavius Murray. Instead of cutting the deficit to seven going into the break, Ball State was on the wrong end of a 14-point swing and trailed 28-7. They never recovered.
The Cardinals also had no answer for the Knights rushing attack as they gave up 224 yards on the ground. Conversely, Ball State only managed 68 rushing yards.
One key factor that helped turn the game in Central Florida’s favor was the ability for Bortles to scramble for additional yardage. The Knights pivot isn’t known as a runner, but he ran for 80 yards which was a career high, and had a six-yard touchdown run. Coming into the game he had only rushed for 205 yards on the season, so the Cardinals wouldn’t have expected such an outburst from Bortles in that area.
Ball State’s linebackers seemed to struggle defending short plays out of the backfield all night. Not only was Bortles racking up big numbers running when passing plays broke down, but he was also able to use his running backs to pick up several easy completions and important gains. Murray had receiving touchdowns of five and seven yards.
The most interesting story to come out of this game was a rare case where Ball State safety Jarrett Swaby was playing his former team. Swaby played for UCF last season and graduated from the school in three years. He was able to transfer to Ball State without sitting out a year thanks to an NCAA rule that allows players who are taking graduate courses not offered by their former school to play right away.
It appears Swaby had no inside information that could help the Cardinals on this night though, as they simply had no answer for the Central Florida attack. With the defeat, Ball State did nothing to help the reputation of MAC school’s performances in big games. However, the conference does have seven bowl eligible schools this year, so there will be plenty of other opportunities to show what they are made of.
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