MUNCIE, Ind. - The Central Connecticut State football team opened its season the same way it did last year - with a loss to a Division I FBS opponent.
Last season it was Syracuse. Thursday night, it was Ball State.
Despite the difference between a Power 5 school and one that plays in the Mid-American Conference, it hardly mattered. The Blue Devils managed just 291 yards of total offense to the Cardinals’ 652 in the 42-6 rout.
CCSU’s six points came on an Aaron Dawson two-yard run with 12 seconds left in the game. The sophomore tailback proved to be the Blue Devils’ most effective offensive player, rushing 10 times for 61 yards.
But CCSU’s troubles began from its opening drive after Francis Cole’s 36-yard field goal went wide right. The Blue Devils’ remaining four drives of the first half ended in punt, fumble, punt and punt.
Ball State scored the first points of the night on its second possession when Riley Neal connected with Nolan Given for a 20-yard touchdown pass to cap of a 13-play, 71-yard drive. The Cardinals then followed up with a six-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard run from Malik Dunner.
Neal made it 21-0 with 2:43 left in the first half with a 16-yard run of his own. The Ball State quarterback finished the game completing 23-of-30 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran six times for 39 yards.
Neal’s second touchdown pass came with 3:41 left in the third quarter on a 20-yard pass to Yo'Heinz Tyler, who later caught a 63-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Drew Pitt late in the fourth.
CCSU quarterback Jacob Dolegala, meanwhile, completed 14-of-24 passes for 117 yards.
But as much trouble as the Blue Devils had in stopping big plays through the air, they had just as much trouble containing the Cardinals’ ground game. Ball State had four players rush for 40 yards or more with James Gilbert rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.
CCSU will now see a different level of opponent again next week as it takes on Division-II Lincoln (PA) on Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. in its home opener.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org