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October 11, 2008Numbers don't lie, but they can also be deceiving.
Ball State put up 355 yards of total offense to the 352 yards put up by WKU. The Toppers also crossed the 50-yard line seven times.
Yet even with those numbers, you still may not think the game was that close with a final score of 24-7 in Ball State's favor.
Opportunities were there. In the first half, WKU moved the ball into Ball State territory on its first four drives. Those drives ended with two fumbles a missed field goal and a turnover on downs.
"I think we showed that we can move the ball," coach David Elson said. "I told our guys, they're fighting, they're scratching, they're playing their hearts out, we're just making some mistakes. Obviously, that's on me. We've gotta find a way to be able to capitalize on those opportunities and do a better job taking advantage of those, coaching-wise. It's frustrating for everybody, right here and in that locker room, coaches, players, managers, fans, everybody. It's a tough game, we're playing some awfully good people and there's some good things going, just not enough. We've gotta find a way to get some more good things going and get some points on the board and get some turnovers, create some turnovers defensively."
The first fumble came on a drive in which the Toppers moved the ball efficiently, going 80 yards in 11 plays, before sophomore quarterback Dexter Taylor fumbled at the Cardinals' three-yard line. Ball State got possession on a touchback, as the ball went through the end zone and out of bounds.
After a 42-yard field goal attempt by senior Tanner Siewert went wide right, redshirt freshman running back Bobby Rainey fumbled at the Ball State 21-yard line.
"We just need to execute," junior wide receiver Jake Gaebler said. "We move the ball down the field, then for some reason, we get close and kinda stall as an on offense. We just need to focus on doing the same things we have been doing at the beginning of that drive and just continue to finish and try to execute. You can't have mental errors and mistakes when you're in the red zone, because a team like Ball State's gonna make you pay for that."
The passing game was better, with senior quarterback David Wolke throwing for 161 yards on 17 of 29 passing. Though he threw a late, 20-yard touchdown pass to Gaebler, he also threw a fourth quarter interception.
"Offensively, we get better every weekend," Wolke said. It's been tough on us. We've played some good football teams. You can't take credit away from Ball State, they're a good football team too. We've just gotta keep grinding and focus on the little things more and get better each week."
Defensively, the Toppers were able to limit Ball State junior quarterback Nate Davis to 155 yards on 14 of 22 passing. Davis came into the game averaging 277 yards per game.
"Our secondary did well," redshirt freshman Ryan Beard said. "We were effective and did what we wanted to do and keeping him under control and eliminating the deep threat. We made him throw a lot of underneath routes and did good things in that aspect. There's always room for improvement. We had a few MA's here and there, but as a unit we played pretty well."
Davis' low output was compensated for by junior halfback MiQuale Lewis, who ran for 114 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Cardinals had bigger offensive numbers in the second half. WKU outgained Ball State in the first half 221-118.
The progress is there for WKU, but it can't get over the hump, with its lack of finishing ability on the opponent's side of midfield.
"It just comes down to us making more plays than the other team," Wolke said. "All night, tonight, it was there. It's just protecting the football and making the plays. We're so close. The pass I threw to Gaebler in the end zone, if it would've just been a foot farther in front of him, it would've been a touchdown. This one hurts. We're sick to our stomachs. Every one of us really wanted to win. It's tough, but we've just gotta keep getting better and look forward to Saturday. The season ain't over yet."