for this game

Ball State hammers Eastern Michigan to remain unbeaten

Oct 25, 2008 - 9:21 PM MUNCIE, Indiana (Ticker) -- For the first time in school history, Ball State played a home game as a ranked team. Nate Davis and the Cardinals were late arrivals Saturday amid the festive atmosphere.

Davis finally ignited a sluggish offense by throwing three touchdown passes in a 13-minute span bridging the second and third quarters as the 22nd-ranked Cardinals overcame a slow start to rout Mid-American Conference rival Eastern Michigan, 38-16.

"I think our fans, our students and our community provide great support, and that's what really energizes us," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said.

Coming off a bye week, the Cardinals (8-0, 4-0 MAC West) were kept out of the end zone, however, until Davis tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Briggs Orsbon with 2:36 remaining in the first half to give the Cardinals a 10-0 halftime lead.

Davis then threw TD passes to Darius Hill and Orsbon in the third quarter, sending Ball State to its first 8-0 start since 1965, when it went 9-0-1.

"If you let teams hang around in a close game, you put yourselves in a position to be beat," Hoke added. "I thought we came out with a great mentality in the second half and we were able to put the game away."

The Cardinals stayed one-half game behind Central Michigan, which rallied for a 24-23 win over Toledo on Saturday, in the race for the MAC West Division title.

Ball State plays at Central Michigan on November 19 in a game that likely will decide the division's representative in the MAC championship game.

Davis, the ninth-rated passer in the Football Bowl Subdivision, completed 17-of-31 attempts for 241 yards with a touchdown against Eastern Michigan.

"(Davis) is a competitor," Hoke said. "He has all the physical attributes most people want and the proper mindset on top of that."

After Ball State built a 24-0 lead, Eastern Michigan (2-7, 1-4 West) finally got on the board on Andy Schmitt's 7-yard TD pass to Jacory Stone on the final play of the third period.

The Eagles closed within 31-13 on Schmitt's 5-yard TD to Tyler Jones with nine minutes remaining, but cornerback Trey Buice sealed the victory by returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes later.

Eastern Michigan has dropped seven of its last eight games following a season-opening 52-0 victory over Indiana State.

Schmitt finished 28-of-49 for 309 yards with a pair of TDs and two interceptions.

Ball State grabbed a 3-0 lead on Ian McGarvey's 27-yard field goal with 2:31 left in the first quarter, but was forced to punt on three of its first four possessions.

"We have to play better," Hoke said. "It's really a simple game. We had five dropped passes in the first half, that's a significant number. You have to catch the ball, you have to run the ball, and you have to stop the ball."

The Cardinals were much more productive in the third quarter, putting together scoring drives of 60 and 82 yards.

"Ball State has a good football team," Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk said. "They are well-coached. Ball State plays fundamentally sound football. When they force the passing game like that did today, they lengthen the game.

"We were able to move the ball, but it also allowed Davis to be on the field longer to make plays."

After Eastern Michigan's first score, the Cardinals needed only two plays to make it 31-7 on MiQuale Lewis' 52-yard TD run 30 seconds into the final quarter.