MUNCIE, IN – The Army West Point football team suffered its first loss of the 2021 season on Saturday at Scheumann Stadium, falling 28-16 at the hands of Ball State.
Though they trailed by as much as 21-0, the Black Knights (4-1) were able to claw their way back into the game and at one point were down by just one possession. Ultimately, an offensive outburst in the first quarter allowed the Cardinals (2-3) to come away with the victory.
Despite the result, the night was highlighted by Army’s ability to limit Ball State to 30-points-or-less for the fifth time in the 22-year history between the two teams. A large part of that effort was accredited to linebacker Arik Smith, who recorded a season- and team-best nine tackles.
Ball State controlled the game out of the gate and opened up the action with a 99-yard kickoff return to take a 7-0 lead. The Cardinals scored for three-straight drives at the start of the game and earned their 21-0 advantage by the end of the first quarter. Their 101 yards in the opening 15 minutes were almost more than the team’s second (53 yards) and fourth quarter (50 yards) efforts combined.
After a quiet start, Army’s offense began to come to life in the second quarter when running back Braheam Murphy got things going with a 25-yard run for a first down.
Quarterback Tyhier Tyler eventually capped the drive on a five-yard run in to the end zone to cut the lead to 21-7.
On the other side of the ball, the Black Knights’ defense began to settle in and was able to force Ball State to call out the special teams unit and punt. Army kept up the momentum when it got the ball back and went on to score for the second-straight possession when Tyler capped off a 14-play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard run into the end zone. The strike allowed Tyler to achieve the second multi-TD game of his career and brought Ball State’s lead down to just one possession at 21-14.
As the clock wound down on the opening half, the Cardinals attempted to find their way into Army’s half of the field once again but linebacker Nathaniel Smith came up with a five-yard sack.
Though the Black Knights had the ball coming out of the break, the offense struggled through the third quarter, punting three times and turning the ball over once. Ball State’s best chance to score was on its first drive of the second half, but that drive was stalled by Army’s defense as N. Smith broke up a pass on third-and-seven. The duo of defensive lineman Nolan Cockrill and linebacker Andre Carter II sacked the quarterback on the following play.
The offensive troubles followed the Cadets into the fourth quarter, as turnovers and failure to convert on fourth down stunted the team. Ball State was able to use its second interception of the outing to its advantage and eventually got into the end zone once again with an 18-yard pass, extending the edge to 28-14. With quarterback Jemel Jones stepping in under center, Army stormed its way into the red zone, but was unable to convert.
With just over two minutes left in the game, a safety allowed the Black Knights to collect some last-minute points, but the game was eventually solidified at a 28-16 margin of victory for the Cardinals.
Army Head Coach Jeff Monken said, “That was a good, old-fashion butt whupping. Not much to say other than that. Poor job on my part with having our team prepared and ready and we didn’t execute very well. That’s the result. Give Ball State credit, they played really hard and their kids played well. They earned the victory. They certainly did.”
Army will rest and recover during a bye week before hitting the road once again to take on Wisconsin. The Black Knights and the Badgers are set to clash at 8 p.m. EST on Saturday, Oct. 16 at Camp Randall Stadium. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.