BLOOMINGTON — Ball State coach Pete Lembo said early last week that he’d like to see the Cardinals play either Indiana or Purdue every year.
After Saturday, becoming a card-carrying regular on the Hoosiers’ schedule looks tempting.
For the third consecutive time, Ball State ventured out of Muncie to defeat IU – this time stunning Indiana 41-39 on a last-second, 42-yard field goal from senior Steven Schott at Memorial Stadium.
Last year, the Cardinals ruined Kevin Wilson’s IU coaching debut, 27-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium. In 2008, Ball State dropped a 42-20 bomb on IU under similar circumstances when IU was searching for its third straight win.
It was a shocking turnaround in a game that had many.
Indiana appeared to be on the verge of winning when it got a 2-yard touchdown pass from freshman Nate Sudfeld to Shane Wynn with 49 seconds remaining in the game.
But Ball State came back, including a Keith Wenning-to-Willie Snead pass that, upon further review, was caught at the 25 with one second remaining.
That set up the game-winner by Schott.
Lembo’s logic was based on economics: Why would Indiana pay another non-BCS team to come to Bloomington when the Cardinals of the Mid-American Conference are two hours up the road and could use the state’s love and IU’s money?
“I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense for Indiana or Purdue to cut checks to people from Illinois or somewhere else, when they could be helping Ball State,” Lembo said.
There would be no sympathy for Ball State, though, especially in a frantic fourth quarter that saw the Hoosiers come back from the near grave.
It was with 4:07 that life was restored when, trailing 38-25, the Hoosiers got back in the game on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Sudfeld to Cody Latimer.
Taking advantage of three Ball State pass interference calls, including one that gave the Hoosiers possession at the Ball State 2, Indiana came back from the 13-point deficit.
After torching Ball State in the opening half, the Hoosiers had just one first down in three series, and the deepest IU penetration was to its 47.
Trailing by a point at the half, Ball State broke back on top with a little trickery. Wenning handed the ball to wide receiver Jamill Smith, who then lofted a 12-yard touchdown pass to Wenning 4:15 into the third period.
The Cardinals scored on their next series, only this time Wenning was doing the throwing with an 11-yard pass to tight end Zane Fakes. It put the Cardinals up 38-25.
Indiana had its own impressive quarterback, however, in sophomore Cam Coffman, who started in place of the injured Tre Roberson.
Although Coffman finished with impressive numbers (24 of 35 for 251 yards and two touchdowns), they weren’t enough, since he was replaced early in the fourth quarter by Sudfeld, who tossed a 70-yard scoring pass to Latimer with 4:07 left.
And there would be more.