Arizona Bowl: Ball State Blasts San Jose State, Securing Cardinal’s First Bowl Win | Nationwide sport & recreation
It was the most impressive performance by a Ball State product on CBS since David Letterman’s last show, which aired in May 2015.
The champions of the Mid-American Conference put on a show at the Offerpad Arizona Bowl. It wasn’t good for ratings – the game was essentially decided in the first quarter – but it was a monumental feat for the Cardinals.
Ball State defeated No. 22 San Jose State on Thursday afternoon at Arizona Stadium 34-13, securing the first bowl win in program history. It was the culmination of a long, arduous rebuilding project led by Mike Neu, a former BSU quarterback who was returning to his alma mater in his fifth year hoping to accomplish just that.
“That was always my vision,” said Neu, putting on a gray Arizona Bowl Champions baseball cap. “The reason I returned to Ball State was because I had a burning desire to bring this program back to the top.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I know there was no doubt a few years ago. “
The Cardinals had landed from Neu under 500 in each of the first four seasons. But there were subtle signs of progress in 2019. Ball State defeated Miami of Ohio to end the season. At the start of this game, the Cardinals had lost three competitions with a total of eight points.
After a 38:31 loss to the RedHawks this season, Ball State recorded six straight wins. The last one came as a surprise from another undefeated team, # 23 Buffalo, in the MAC Championship Game. It was the BSU’s first conference title since 1996 and the first victory against a high-ranking opponent since 2012. Now the Cardinals have two in a row.
Ball State wide receiver Antwan Davis has a catch within the 10-year line after landing behind San Jose State cornerback Nehemiah Shelton in the first quarter on Thursday.
“The MAC championship is right at the top,” said Neu. “When the game was over, our focus shifted completely the next day. The preparation was exactly the same. This was a Super Bowl game for us. We wanted to make sure we were doing our best and having our best brand for Cardinals football. “
The state of San Jose had seen a similar rise. Spartan’s trainer Brent Brennan described the parallels between the two programs as “downright creepy”.
The Spartans won only eight games in Brennan’s first three seasons. But they too went 5-7 a year ago – including three defeats by a total of eight points.
Despite being evicted from San Jose for training camp and the latter part of the season due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Spartans set a 7-0 record. They tried to become the first San Jose state team to go undefeated since 1939.
The Spartans couldn’t seem to go wrong. The carriage then turned into a pumpkin on New Year’s Eve.
Several SJSU players and both coordinators were unavailable for the game.
The school didn’t give an official reason, but the Arizona Bowl availability was tested for COVID-19.
Absentee players included defenseman Cade Hall, Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year and national sacks co-leader. All-MWC wideout Bailey Gaither, the leading recipient of the Spartans; Safety Tre Jenkins, the team’s third lead tackler; and start offensive linemen Kyle Hoppe and Tyler Stevens.
Without coordinators Kevin McGiven (attack) and Derrick Odum (defense), the state of San Jose had to delegate the duties of players to coaches who had not fulfilled these duties. The Spartans were out of sync from the start.
Ball State Security Malcolm Lee, 28, holds recipient Tre Walker, 10, of San Jose state forever after his catch in the third quarter of the Arizona Bowl, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona on December 31, 2020.
Ball State took a 27-0 lead at the end of a first quarter, which felt a lot like their last game at Arizona Stadium – Arizona State’s 70-7 win over Arizona for the Territorial Cup.
The Spartans used the facilities of the wild cats all week. Coincidence?
Whatever the reason, it was clear from the start that this would not be San Jose State afternoon. In the first game of scrimmage, Derrick Deese Jr. caught a short pass and landed awkwardly after being attacked. Deese, SJSU’s leader with five touchdown receptions, didn’t return.
The series ended with a score for Ball State. Cornerback Antonio Phillips intercepted Nick Starkel in third and seventh place, returning 53 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
The Spartans went out three on each of their next two possessions. The Cardinals responded with two touchdowns to make it 20-0.
Ball State’s Nic Jones then blocked a punt in the US state of San Jose, which led to quarterback Drew Plitt’s 1-yard sneak for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead for Cardinals.
Even if something went wrong for the state of San Jose, the state would give Ball no reason.
After the Cardinals missed a field goal in the second quarter – their first run that didn’t end in a touchdown – the Spartans drove within the 10-yard line. But when the second hit of 9, the substitute quarterback Nick Nash was intercepted for the shortly injured Starkel by security Bryce Cosby on the goal line.
Ball State’s opening run in the second half ended with a fumble. But at the next game Starkel was intercepted by Brett Anderson. Three games later, Plitt Yo’Heinz Tyler threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-0.
Ball State has intercepted a total of four passes, an Arizona Bowl record.
San Jose State finally scored a 9:28 touchdown on Charlie Bostic’s 99-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. After 34-13, the Spartans entered the BSU’s 35-yard line twice in the fourth quarter. Both drives ended in downs.
“It means so much,” said Cosby. “Coach Neu preached all week: ‘Be legendary. ‘We knew we had the opportunity to do something special this year. I can’t even fathom the amount of victims.
“The year started pretty rough, to say the least. While we want some sort of normalcy, 2020 didn’t go bad for the Cardinals. “
- Ball State played without a leading receiver Justin Hall. Hall dressed but did not appear in the game due to an unknown injury. Hall, a senior, competed as an active leader in college football with 257 career receptions Thursday.
- The 2020 Arizona Bowl was the first game in a six-year deal with the MAC. Ball State was only the second team outside of the Mountain West Conference to win the competition, joining the state of New Mexico (2017).