TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Tears were shed when Ball State coach Mike Neu told his players this summer that the season had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When the Mid-American Conference changed course and decided to start a truncated season in November, the Cardinals got a second chance. They made it the show’s first bowl win in 10 attempt He
Antonio Phillips returned an early interception 53 yards for a touchdown, Drew Plitt accounted for two touchdowns and Ball State beat No. 19 San Jose State 34-13 in the Arizona Bowl on Thursday.
” We knew we had an opportunity to do something special here,” Ball State safety Bryce Cosby said. ” That says a lot about these guy He I can’t even imagine the amount of sacrifice with COVID and all. We had to do everything a little differently and I’m proud of these guy He ”
San Jose State (7-1, No. 22 CFP) had to play without its two coordinators and Mountain West Conference player of the year Cade Hall due to COVID-19 and other issue He
The Cardinals (7-1) took the lead, blasting their way across the field on offense after Phillips’ interception for a 27-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Mid-American champions bogged down in the second half but had four interceptions to beat consecutive ranked opponents for the first time; they defeated then-No. 23 Buffalo in the game for the MAC title.
” People ask if this is a Super Bowl type game or a Pro Bowl type game,” Neu said. “This is a Super Bowl type game for u He I’m proud of these guys for playing Cardinals football. ”
With fewer hands, the Spartans lost tight end DerricDensese Jr., the team leader with five touchdown receptions, to a neck injury on the first play from scrimmage.
Quarterback Nick Starkel injured his left knee in the second quarter, but then returned with a brace. He threw for 268 yards and a touchdown with three interception He
“Ball State came out and playehard, andnd they are rewarded for it,” Starkel said. ” We feel confident with the guys we had going into this game and I take full responsibility for interceptions because when I have the ball in my hands, it all depends on me We
Both teams reached the desert on a roll.
The Spartans, who were 1-11 just two years ago, had their best season since going 13-0 in 1939. San Jose State won its first championship from Mountain West and had its first winning season since 2012.
The Spartans did so despite having to move to training camp and not being able to play at their home field for most of the season.
Ball State lost its first game to Miami of Ohio, then scored six straight wins to win its first MAC championship since 1996.
The Cardinals got off to a fast start against the Spartans with few hand He
Phillips scored on his interception when Starkel had a miscommunication with a receiver in the Spartans’ first serie He Ball State kept moving forward with its fast-paced offense, scoring on 3-yard runs by Will Jones and Tye Evan He Plitt also scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down after Nic Jones blocked Elijah Fischer’s punt.
” We dated with a purpose,” Neu said.
San Jose State finally got some momentum after Starkel was injured, but backup Nick Nash threw an interception in the end zone. Spartans kicker Matt Mercurio closed the ugly first half with a failed 49-yard field goal attempt.
Plitt’s 48-yard TD pass to Yo’Heinz Tyler made it 33-0 before San Jose State finally scored on CharliBasicic’s 99-yard return.
” The best story in Spartan football this year has been our brotherhood and our family,” said Spartans coach Brent Brennan. “In our process of building that together and for those guys who couldn’t be a part of today, it’s completely devastating and heartbreaking for them and everyone’s sorry We
San Jose State’s bid for an undefeated season began to unravel before the game started and a shaky first quarter put the Spartans in too big a hole.
Ball State started fast against the shortsighted Spartans and led it to a historic first bowl victory.
Plitt was efficient, throwing for 217 yards on 12 of 19 passe He
He received help from the duo of Jones and Donny Marcu He
Jones had 89 yards on 22 carries and the touchdown. Marcus had 69 yards on 10 carries, including a 28-yard rush.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
San Jose State: The Spartans got some good news earlier this week when Starkel announced he would return for one final college season. San Jose State will have to replace several seniors on offense, but most defensive starters are juniors or younger.
Ball State: The Cardinals will have to readjust to offense next season after losing eight senior starters, including Plitt. Ball State will also have to replace several seniors on defense.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.