Instant Analysis: Ark. State 23, Ball State 20
January, 6, 2014
By Jeff Barlis | ESPN.com
Arkansas State (8-5) defeated Ball State (10-3) 23-20 in the GoDaddy Bowl on a wet, windy Sunday night in Mobile, Ala.
It was over when: Arkansas State blocked Scott Secor's attempt at a 38-yard game-tying field goal with two seconds left. Earlier, quarterback Fredi Knighten rallied ASU from down four by engineering a 59-yard drive with 1:33 left. He gave Arkansas State the lead for good when he threw a perfect 13-yard strike to Allen Muse in the corner of the end zone.
Game ball goes to: Knighten, a sophomore, who came off the bench late in the first quarter and sparked the Red Wolves with his ability to run and pass. When starter Adam Kennedy was ineffective, Knighten stepped up and led ASU in rushing 19 times for 97 yards and completing 15 of 20 passes for 115 yards and the game-winning touchdown. His last pass, the TD pass, was his best of the night.
Stat of the game: Ball State QB Keith Wenning threw just his seventh interception of the season, but it was a costly one that blunted the Cardinals' momentum early in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State's defense harassed Wenning into one of his worst performances in an exceptional season, as he was 23-of-44 passing for 215 yards. That's about 112 yards below his average.
Unsung hero of the game: Running back Jahwan Edwards did everything he could to keep Ball State in the game and make up for Wenning's difficulties. He paced the offense in the first half with 92 yards on 14 carries and finished with 28 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown. He even pounced on a Wenning fumble just two plays before scoring his go-ahead TD.
Second guessing: After a long scoring drive to start the second half, Arkansas State had all the momentum and didn't need a big mistake by Ball State. But that's exactly what the Red Wolves got when BSU coach Pete Lembo inexplicably called for a fake punt on his own 34-yard line. Freshman punter Kyle Schmidt lost four yards on the play, and ASU took over at its own 30. It wasn't a total disaster because the Ball State defense prevented a touchdown, but Arkansas State extended its lead to 16-10 with a field goal.
What it means: The Red Wolves played with passion as their new coach, Blake Anderson, looked on from the sideline. John Thompson is now 2-0 as interim coach at Arkansas State, with both wins in the GoDaddy Bowl. The defensive coordinator, who stuck around when former coach Gus Malzahn left to take over at Auburn a year ago, made a good case for himself as he now hits the job market. Ball State was oh-so-close to the first bowl win in program history, but the Cardinals fell to 0-7.
To watch the trophy presentation of the GoDaddy Bowl, click here.