CMU football loses to Ball State as road struggles continue


Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jase Bauer rushes the ball and scores a touchdown during the homecoming game against Akron, Saturday, Oct. 14 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Bauer led the team in rushing yards with 61. (CM-Life | Marie Underwood)

With Central Michigan football down seven with 16 seconds remaining, quarterback Jase Bauer took the snap on a 4th and 13 play as the Chippewas had one last chance to tie the game against Ball State.

Facing pressure, Bauer threw a dart over the middle to wide receiver Tyson Davis who dropped the ball, causing a turnover on downs. The play sealed the win for the Cardinals as CMU fell 24-17 on Saturday. 

“Our identity is we just hang in there,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “Play with whatever the heck is across the line of scrimmage instead of playing with a little bit of an attitude to go out and get it done.” 

The Chippewas have struggled on the road this season, going 1-4 on opponents’ home field. Their only win on the road was against South Alabama back in week four. 

With the loss, CMU falls to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in Mid-American Conference play, moving the Chippewas to third place in the MAC West where they are tied with Eastern Michigan. 

“I believe in them still, (and) I love them,” McElwain said. “(They) got to get it out of each other, and we got to stay together.”

The CMU defense came into the game without its leading tackler Kyle Moretti who went down with a leg injury last week against Akron. The injuries continued against the Cardinals as defensive back Donte Kent, leader of the defensive backfield, went down with an injury in the second quarter. Kent did not return for the rest of the game. 

The Chippewa defense struggled against Ball State, giving up 344 yards with 243 of those coming on the ground. 

"It wasn’t nothing they (Ball State offense) did,” McElwain said. “... Give their (running) back credit, they made some really nice cuts in the hole, made us look silly at times, but ultimately for this team we got a lot ahead of us, we got to pick ourselves up.” 

Injuries made an impact on both sides of the ball for CMU as leading rusher Myles Bailey was out with an injury. With Bailey out, running back Marion Lukes stepped up in the backfield, securing 100 total yards along with a touchdown. 

After Lukes opened the game on a 45-yard kickoff return, the Chippewas found themselves at midfield for their first possession of the game. The run game led the charge in the first drive as CMU got into field goal range where Tristan Mattson hit a 45-yard field goal to take a early 3-0 lead. 

However, the lead didn’t last long as the Cardinals put together a seven play, 75-yard drive topped off by a 3-yard rushing touchdown from quarterback Kiael Kelly to put Ball State up 7-3. 

The Chippewa offense struggled to get anything going in the first half as they were held to 96 total yards to give Ball State the edge, 10-3 heading into the half.

"Offensively, (we didn't) stay on the field, and we just never did create any explosive plays, that's the bottom line," McElwain said. 

The Cardinals continued their momentum into the second half as they marched down the field in their opening drive of the third quarter. The drive ended in a 15-yard touchdown for running back Marquez Cooper to put Ball State up by two possessions, 17-3.

Cooper proved to be a problem out of the backfield for the CMU defense as he ended the game with 162 rushing yards on 26 carries, finding the end zone once for the Cardinals. 

With the Chippewas in desperate need of a score, wide receiver Jesse Prewitt III delivered with a one-hand grab in the end zone to give CMU its first touchdown of the game and cut the deficit to seven, 17-10. 

Ball State responded with a touchdown of its own to begin the fourth quarter on a 4th and goal rush from Kelly to put the Cardinals back to a 14-point lead.

After a big stop on defense that caused a punt from Ball State, the Chippewas were in do-or-die territory in the red zone, as they faced a 4th and 5 situation. After Bauer evaded pressure in the backfield, he found tight end Mitchel Collier for nine yards to give CMU the first down. 

On the next play, Lukes continued his success on the ground as he found himself in the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the season to put the Chippewas back within one score, 24-17 with four minutes left in the game. 

The Chippewa defense came up with another stop aided by a 6-yard tackle for a loss by Nick Apsey to give the offense the ball back with just over two minutes to play in regulation. 

With a chance to tie the game, the Chippewas started the drive at their own eight-yard line. Having to go 92 yards down the field with no timeouts, CMU completed short passes to get to midfield. 

With under a minute to play, Bauer was pressured where it appeared he threw the ball away. However, the officiating crew called forward progress on the play to register a sack for the Cardinals and keep the clock rolling. 

On a fourth down with the game on the line, the Chippewas couldn’t convert to seal the win for Ball State on its homecoming. 

CMU will return home for its next matchup against Northern Illinois for Fright Night on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 7/7:30 p.m.