Ball State pounds Eastern Michigan, 37-26, in season opener
The hallmark of Ron English’s turnaround project at Eastern Michigan last season was an improved defense and powerful running game.
Neither of those aspects of the game were evident in the Eagles’ 2012 season opener.
EMU recorded just one first down during its first four possessions of the second half and Ball State scored on its first four drives to turn a close Mid-American Conference game into a 37-26 win Thursday night. (Boxscore)
Kurt Hostetler | The Star Press
The Eagles -- who opted for an all-white uniform (helmet, jerseys and pants) from their new palette that includes more than 20 possible looks -- were the 34th-ranked defense in the nation in 2011, allowing an average of 350.3 yards and 24.3 points per game.
Ball State was next-to-last in the nation last year with more than 500 yards allowed per game. The Cardinals limited EMU to 366 yards, and only 181 through the first three quarters.
Edwards got Ball State off to a fast start in the second half, taking the Cardinals’ second play from scrimmage 75 yards for a touchdown and a 20-13 lead, part of 27 straight Ball State points.
Edwards and Horactio Banks (12 carries, 65 yards) would each add another touchdown and Steven Schott kicked his third field goal of the game before the Eagles would gain another first down.
Banks' touchdown ended a 9-play, 97-yard drive.
"I really believe our offensive line took control of the game in the second half and I am very proud of how we ran the ball," Ball State coach Pete Lembo told BallStateSports.com.
Forced to abandon its ineffective running game, the Eagles cut into the 27-point deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns behind the throwing (a 7-yard pass to Mitchell Dawkins with 10:02 to play) and scrambling (a 16-yard run with 5:15 left) of quarterback Alex Gillett.
Gillett accounted for 267 of the Eagles’ 366 total yards. He rushed for 81 yards and completed 15-of-34 passes for 186 yards, including first-half touchdown passes to Donald Scott and Garrett Hoskins.
Kody Fulkerson’s point-after kick following the Hoskins touchdown was blocked, allowing Schott’s 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 13-13 with 3 seconds remaining before halftime.
Javonti Greene rushed for 62 yards and led Eastern Michigan in receiving with three catches for 51 yards. Starting tailback Dominique Sherrer was limited to 30 yards on 10 carries.
Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning was 26-of-41 passing for 267 yards. Just five of those completions came in the second half, when the Cardinals turned to Edwards and Banks. The two running backs gained a combined 195 yards on 22 carries after halftime.
The Cardinals 11-point margin of victory is the largest in the series since 2008. The last three meetings were decided by three points or fewer.