Sloppy Michigan nearly upset by Ball StateNov 4, 2006 - 8:28 PM ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Ticker) -- Ball State and coach Brady Hoke nearly ruined his former team's perfect season.
Nearly a five-touchdown underdog, the Cardinals had a late chance to tie before succumbing to second-ranked Michigan, 34-26, in the first meeting between the programs.
Mike Hart and true freshman Brandon Minor each ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown for the Wolverines (10-0), who held a 352-47 advantage in rushing yards but could not put away the Cardinals (3-7).
Michigan's defensive line coach from 1995-2002, Hoke saw his team rally from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to pull within eight points on a two-yard run by Larry Bostic with 8:45 to play. The score came two plays after a 62-yard completion from true freshman Nate Davis to Terry Moss.
The Wolverines went three-and-out, and the Cardinals got back the ball at their 13-yard line with 6:38 to play and drove down the field. On 3rd-and-goal from the 12, Davis was sacked by Tim Jamison, but the defensive end was whistled for a face-mask penalty, giving the visitors a new set of downs.
Davis threw incomplete on first down before Bostic gained four yards. After Davis threw another incompletion on third down, and following a false-start penalty, the quarterback did not come close on a pass to Dante Love on fourth down.
"They were matched up man-to-man," Davis said. "I tried to hit Dante on a little fade stop. But the play didn't work - I underthrew him. The main receiver was Darius Hill. But I just saw a man off of Dante, so I tried to get him the ball. He just sat there, and I just made a bad throw. That's all it was."
After getting back the ball on downs with 2:46 to go, Michigan whittled all but 16 seconds off the clock. Wolverines safety Ryan Mundy intercepted a desperation pass by Davis in the end zone with no time left.
"I give Ball State a lot of credit. They continued to fight and did a good job," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I'm disappointed that we let them back in the game. I'm always disappointed when we give up 14 points because of big plays."
"Even though we got the win, we don't want to overlook the mistakes that happened," said star defensive end LaMarr Woodley, who was playing his final home game. "The next two games are going to be big games. We can't go in there and play Indiana and Ohio State like we did Ball State today."
Cardinals linebacker Brad Seiss believes the Wolverines overlooked his team.
"Seeing that we haven't played as well as we needed to play this year, they thought it maybe could have been an easy game," Seiss said. "They might have thought they were on cruise control on the way to Ohio State. But we came out - our goal was to take it to the fourth quarter, and we did that. If things could have gone a little differently for us, we could have shocked the world."
Davis completed 18-of-34 passes for 250 yards - all but 45 in the second half - with a touchdown and one interception for Ball State, which became the 22nd Mid-American Conference team in as many tries to lose to Michigan.
"We came to win and that is what we talked about," Hoke said. "We are not just going to have any moral victories. We are going to play to win every game. So it is disappointing."
Chad Henne went 17-of-25 for 155 yards, a TD and a pick for the Wolverines, who had star wide receiver Mario Manningham return after a three-game absence following knee surgery but fail to catch a pass.
Michigan outgained Ball State, 331-62, in the first half but took just a 24-12 lead into the locker room after giving up nine points on a pair of turnovers.
Hart - who had gone 665 carries without a fumble - had the ball poked out of his right hand by Cardinals linebacker Cortland Booker in the end zone for a safety midway through the first quarter.
Six minutes later, Henne threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage that was intercepted by safety Erik Keys, who reterned it 35 yards for a touchdown to give Ball State a stunning 9-7 lead.
"After the first nine plays on offense, we give up an interception that goes for a touchdown," Carr said. "Then we fumble the football in the end zone for a safety. I think we were far too generous."
Michigan responded with an eight-play, 74-yard drive, which Henne capped with a seven-yard TD toss to redshirt freshman tight end Carson Butler, grabbing the lead for good, 14-9, with 12:50 to play in the second quarter.
Hart ran five times for 51 yards on the drive and finished with 154 yards on 25 carries.
Minor, who rushed for 108 yards on just 12 carries, gave Michigan a 24-9 cushion with a 40-yard scamper down the right sideline with 4:37 to play in the first half.
Hart made it 31-12 with a one-yard run with 6:46 to go in the third quarter, then sat out until Ball State made it a one-score game.
The Cardinals got within 31-19 on a 54-yard pass from Davis to Love with 4:25 to go in the third period before Garrett Rivas gave Michigan a 15-point cushion with a 23-yard field goal in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
The kick gave Rivas 339 career points, moving him past former running back Anthony Thomas for the school's all-time scoring record.
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