Tears had been shed when Ball State coach Mike Neu informed his gamers this summer time that the season had been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When the Mid-American Convention modified course and determined to start out a truncated season in November, the Cardinals got a second likelihood. They turned it into this system’s first bowl win in 10 tries.
Antonio Phillips returned an early interception 53 yards for a landing, Drew Plitt accounted for 2 scores and Ball State beat short-handed No. 19 San Jose State 34-13 within the Arizona Bowl on Thursday.
“We knew had been granted a possibility to do one thing particular right here,” Ball State security Bryce Cosby stated. “That claims lots about these guys. I can’t even fathom the quantity of sacrifice with COVID and all the pieces. We needed to do all the pieces slightly totally different and I’m simply happy with these guys.”
San Jose State (7-1, No. 22 CFP) needed to play with out its two coordinators and Mountain West Convention participant of the yr Cade Corridor as a consequence of COVID-19 and different points.
The Cardinals (7-1) took benefit, quick-hitting their means down the sector on offense after Phillips’ interception for a 27-0 lead within the first quarter.
The Mid-American champions slowed down within the second half however had 4 interceptions to beat consecutive ranked opponents for the primary time; they defeated then-No. 23 Buffalo within the MAC title sport.
“Individuals ask if it is a Tremendous Bowl-type sport or a Professional Bowl-type sport,” Neu stated. “This can be a Tremendous Bowl-type sport for us. I am happy with these guys for enjoying Cardinals soccer.”
Already short-handed, the Spartans misplaced tight finish Derrick Deese Jr., the workforce chief with 5 landing receptions, to a neck damage on the primary play from scrimmage.
Quarterback Nick Starkel injured his left knee within the second quarter however later returned carrying a brace. He threw for 268 yards and a landing with three interceptions.
“Ball State got here out and performed exhausting and so they get rewarded for it,” stated Starkel. “We felt assured with the fellows we had going into this sport and I take full duty for the interceptions as a result of when I’ve the ball in my arms, it’s all on me.”
Each groups arrived within the desert on a roll.
The Spartans, who went 1-11 simply two years in the past, had their greatest season since going 13-0 in 1939. San Jose State gained its first Mountain West championship and had its first successful season since 2012.
The Spartans did it regardless of having to relocate for coaching camp and never having the ability to play on their dwelling discipline for many of the season.
Ball State misplaced its opener to Miami of Ohio, then reeled off six consecutive wins to earn its first MAC championship since 1996.
The Cardinals acquired off to a fast begin in opposition to the short-handed Spartans.
Phillips scored on his interception when Starkel had a miscommunication with a receiver on the Spartans’ opening drive. Ball State stored rolling with its up-tempo offense, scoring on 3-yard runs by Will Jones and Tye Evans. Plitt additionally scored on a 1-yard, fourth-down run after Nic Jones blocked Elijah Fischer’s punt.
“We got here out with a function,” Neu stated.
San Jose State lastly acquired some momentum after Starkel was injured, however backup Nick Nash threw an interception in the long run zone. Spartans kicker Matt Mercurio closed the ugly first half with a badly-missed 49-yard discipline aim try.
Plitt’s 48-yard TD cross to Yo’Heinz Tyler made it 33-0 earlier than San Jose State lastly scored on Charlie Bostic’s 99-yard kickoff return.
“The very best story of Spartan soccer this yr has been our brotherhood and our household,” Spartans coach Brent Brennan stated. “In our technique of constructing that collectively and for these guys who couldn’t be part of as we speak, it’s fully devastating and heartbreaking for them and everybody feels that.”
San Jose State’s bid for an undefeated season started to unravel earlier than the sport began and a shaky first quarter put the Spartans in too massive of a gap.
Ball State began quick in opposition to the short-handed Spartans and rode it to a historic first bowl win.
Plitt was environment friendly, throwing for 217 yards on 12-of-19 passing.
He acquired assist from the hard-running duo of Jones and Donny Marcus.
Jones had 89 yards on 22 carries and the landing. Marcus had 69 yards on 10 carries, together with a 28-yard run.
San Jose State: The Spartans obtained excellent news earlier this week when Starkel introduced he would return for a remaining faculty season. San Jose State must change a number of seniors on offense, however many of the defensive starters are juniors or youthful.
Ball State: The Cardinals must retool on offense subsequent season after dropping eight senior starters, together with Plitt. Ball State additionally must change a number of seniors on protection.