That is, until the party got spoiled.
Despite what seemed like a magical comeback for IU during Saturday’s game against Ball State, scoring 14 points in less than three minutes to take a late fourth-quarter lead, the Cardinals hit a last-second field goal to steal the win from the Hoosiers, 41-39.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said. “I thought all along we played well. I appreciate the way they hung in there and battled.”
Down 38-25 with only four minutes and seven seconds remaining in the game against Ball State and a freshman quarterback under center, it all seemed like IU was about to fall to a 2-1 record.
In fact, the Hoosiers had not scored since the second quarter. In their five second-half drives to that point, IU had lost possession on every single one. The team had very little momentum.
“We just couldn’t get in rhythm,” Wilson said. “That’s a credit to one, their defense making a stop or just whether you’re throwing the ball. I know we tried to throw a couple short passes there early and just didn’t connect. We just didn’t do a good job with execution or play selection.”
With about four minutes remaining in the game, freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld found sophomore receiver Cody Latimer for a 70-yard touchdown pass, the second-longest touchdown of the season for the Hoosiers.
Following a defensive stop on the next Ball State drive, IU then drove 77 yards on only six plays. On a Sudfeld pass to sophomore wide receiver Shane Wynn in the end zone, the Hoosiers tied the game with only 49 seconds left.
When junior kicker Mitch Ewald knocked in the extra point, the Hoosiers took the 39-38 lead.
“(Wilson) just kept calling plays, and I felt good about them,” Sudfeld said. “I knew the receivers were going to make plays and the line was giving us some time. I just felt comfortable, I felt like I had been out there before. That said, I knew Ball State was a good team, and I knew it was never over.”
After Ball State was able to drive the ball to the IU 43-yard line with only seven seconds remaining, BSU quarterback Keith Wenning completed a pass to IU’s 25-yard sideline with only one second on the clock. Though the play was reviewed, the call on the field was confirmed.
With that one second remaining, Ball State senior kicker Steven Schott nailed the 42-yard field goal, sealing the Cardinal’s victory over the Hoosiers.
“Coach has always taught us to just keep playing,” senior defensive tackle Adam Replogle said. “You have your highs and your lows, but you have to just keep playing. We just kept going and things worked out there for a little bit, but we weren’t able to finish.”
With Saturday night’s loss, IU now has a 2-1 record on the year. Despite what could be called a “heartbreaking” result, Wilson said his team is not going to dwell on this loss.
“This is a good team, and a lot better than what most of you guys think,” Wilson said. “We’re going to get a heck of a lot better with every second of every day. I promise you that.”
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