Sometimes a couple of good opening drives by an underdog can put a contest in “upset alert” mode. Other times the favorite just needs a while to warm up before cooling off their upstart challengers.
Fordham came into Muncie, Indiana as a 29 point longshot against the Ball State Cardinals. But for about a quarter or so the Rams looked like they were ready to shock their lethargic hosts. Then the Cardinals awakened to the tune of 36 straight points while completely erasing any earlier upset propositions.
All total Ball State rolled up nearly 600 yards in easing to a 57-29 win. Even so Fordham (0-2) had its moments and played Ball State (1-1) evenly for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately for the Rams, football is a 60 minute game. By the time the final gun sounded David Letterman’s alma mater had scored their fourth highest all-time point total while winning their tenth straight home opener. Leading the way was Drew Plitt who threw for 439 yards, fourth best in school history. He also tied a school record with six touchdown tosses. Not that the red shirt junior looked to be anywhere near the record books early on.
Fordham’s defense opened with a quick three-and-out stop and followed that with an interception to help set up the game’s first score. Even after a 50 yard bomb to junior Justin Hall, knotting things at 7, Plitt still seemed off his mark for most of the opening stanza. In fact the game’s first turning point didn’t come until about two minutes left in the first.
Thanks to a hot start by Fordham sophomore signal caller, Tim DeMorat, and junior rusher, Zach Davis, the Rams retook the lead 14-7 when Plitt finally found his rhythm. Facing a third and 8 from his own 37, the Ohio native scrambled out of harm’s way before hitting redshirt junior tight end, Nolan Givan, with a 14 yard strike. What could have been a sack and another punt turned into a first down at midfield for the home side. Two completions later tied things at 14 as Plitt went the rest of the day without facing too many more third-and-longs.
Fordham found themselves in a similar situation early in the second. With the score still tied, DeMorat was rushed while facing a third and 7 from his own 23. Instead of finding a receiver however, his heave was picked off. Three plays later Ball State hit pay-dirt for their first lead of the game. Davis (18 carries for 85 yards) continued to chip away on the Rams’ next drive but when that ended on a missed field goal, it became apparent that there’d be no upset.
Ball State scored over-and-over while using two DeMorat picks, a muffed kickoff, a safety and a plethora of gaffes from Fordham’s offensive line to turn a 14-7 first quarter deficit into a 43-14 third quarter lead. Still, the Rams kept battling. DeMorat (20-35, 221 yards) led Fordham on two third quarter trips to the end zone to get within three scores. A fourth quarter drive, which got the visiting bench jumping and could have made things somewhat interesting, ended with a loss of downs deep in Ball State territory. The Cardinals closed things with a late touchdown for the 57-29 final.
Afterwards Joe Conlin, tried remaining positive while telling WFUV that there is “[A] lot to be proud of in this game.” The second year head coach is half right. The offense was there early, when they showed they came to play, and late, when they showed they weren’t giving up. In between though they were completely incapable of keeping up once Ball State got rolling. Things were far worse defensively, as the numbers show. Once again the front seven proved too slow to the perimeter while the secondary was constantly torched.
Although the Cardinals are the toughest opponent the Rams will face this season, even lesser teams will find scoring easy if Fordham isn’t faster to the edge. Conlin particularly singled out that facet of the game as “unacceptable” and until that changes, Fordham will continue to help most opposing offenses into the record books. Thankfully, things should be different next week as the Rams travel to Bryant (0-2) to take on what could be their weakest opponent of the year. There will be nothing to be proud of in that contest unless Fordham returns from Rhode Island with a win.