Buffalo shocks No. 12 Ball State, ends Cardinals perfect season

Buffalo BullsIt’s amazing how just one play can turn the tide of an entire football game. Take a play in unranked Buffalo’s stunning 42-24 upset of No. 12 Ball State in the MAC Championship Game on Friday night.

Up 17-14 and driving for more points following a Bulls’ fumble, Cardinals’ RB MiQuale Lewis took a handoff from Buffalo’s 8-yard line and rushed straight to the pile on at the goal line. Lewis appeared to have gotten in for a touchdown, but officials placed the ball at the 1 and the call upheld following review. After a Lewis two-yard loss and a 5-yard false start penalty, the Cardinals faced 3rd and goal at Buffalo’s 8-yard line. Highly touted quarterback Nate Davis than scrambled on 3rd down, leaped for the end zone and was smashed by multiple Bull defenders. The ball came lose, was scooped up by Buffalo’s Mike Newton and returned 92-yards for a touchdown.

Ball State never recovered. On their ensuing possession, a botched snap led to another Cardinal fumble, and another Buffalo recovery and touchdown. Davis then fumbled once more in the fourth quarter, which led to yet another Bulls touchdown.

What’s amazing is that if officials determined Lewis got in the end zone earlier in the third quarter, Ball State would have taken a 24-14 lead and who knows, they probably would have went on to win and cap off their perfect season with a MAC title. For all intents and purposes, it looked like Lewis was clearly in. And before the botched snap occurred on Ball State’s next offensive possession, officials overturned a reception by the Cardinals that would have put them in the red zone and a chance to take the lead again after Buffalo went up 21-17.

But regardless of whether they were screwed or not, Davis and Ball State have to overcome those calls. There’s no excuse for four fumbles and personally, I thought the Cardinals were flat all night. And that’s not to take anything away from Turner Gill’s Bulls, because they played with intensity and fire the entire night.

This puts the debate to rest about whether or not Ball State deserves to play for a national title. One loss doesn’t ruin a great season, but a team can’t be even remotely considered in a title discussion when it losses to a previously 7-5 Buffalo team, especially when the elements were in Ball State’s favor. (The game was in Detroit at Ford Field, which is certainly more of a hike for Buffalo than it is for Ball State. Plus, with the game being on turf, that certainly played into Davis and the Cardinals’ hands with how good their offense is.)

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