Ball State wins first conference championship since 1996
Senior quarterback Drew Plitt threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns on 20 of 32 passing as Ball State (6-1) defeated Buffalo 38-28 in the MAC Championship to win its first conference title since 1996. Plitt would also run for a score in the game.
A heavily-favored Buffalo team got out to an early 14-7 lead and looked to have control of the game. However, a blocked field goal in the second quarter would give Ball State new life and propel the Cardinals to a 28 point outburst to end the half. Three of their four touchdowns in the quarter would come from the offense, and the defense would add a fumble return with 0:42 left. Ball State led 35-21 at halftime.
It was an all around complete effort from the Cardinals. They shut down star running back Jarrett Patterson, held an offense that averages 51.8 points per game to just 28, and were able to score 38 points themselves on the conference's No. 1 defense.
Buffalo (5-1) tried to make a comeback in the fourth quarter. Down 10 with a 4th and 2 at the Ball State 14, the Bulls decided to go for the first down and would end up throwing an incomplete pass. After forcing a punt, they had another chance. Kyle Vantrease matriculated the team down the field through the air, but Ball State's defense forced a fourth down. On 4th and 1, Kevin Marks was stopped short of the first down, effectively ending the game since it was a two score lead.
Buffalo did get the ball back one more time, but could not convert again. Vantrease led the way with 365 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception. WR Antonio Nunn caught 13 passes for 182 yards.
Ball State running back Tye Evans added 94 yards on the ground as the Cardinals completed their first winning season since 2013. Head coach Mike Neu should be proud of the job he has done.