Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, Ind.
Even the hideous first-half stats don't do justice to just how thoroughly Ball State dominated the early minutes of this game. IU's generation-long winning streak against the MAC looked to be over. Hopefully in the near future this game will be viewed as a turning point in IU's football history. Because Blake Powers was injured, redshirt senior Graeme McFarland started the game, and started ineffectively, standing at 1-4 for -2 yards after two three-and-out drives. Meanwhile, Ball State manhandled the IU defense. Ball State took a 7-0 lead on a 10 play, 80 yard drive, and after IU's first three-and-out, Ball State scored again on a 4 play, 52 yard drive. IU again gave the ball back quickly, and Ball State was again threatening when Tracy Porter intercepted Joey Lynch. Lewis came, in, ran for 10 yards, 11 yards, and completed a 32 yard pass, and that was that. IU's drive stalled near the goal line and Austin Starr missed a short field goal, but IU had its quarterback. IU's offense didn't score in the first half, although Marcus Thigpen returned a Ball State kickoff for a touchdown, but IU trailed 23-7 at halftime.
Ball State didn't score in the second half, while IU managed two touchdowns and a field goal to edge the Cardinals and to avoid a humiliating defeat. Kellen Lewis performed admirably in his debut. Lewis managed 15-28, 228 yards, and a touchdown. He ran 12 times for 91 yards. Unfortunately, no other Hoosier managed to rush with any effectiveness (a problem that continued throughout the season). The Hoosier defense also tuned up, as IU allowed only 101 yards in the second half. Still, it probably told us something about the future that IU's defense was absolutely torched by a middle-of-the-pack MAC team for a half.
No one knew it at the time, but the next week, Terry Hoeppner would be re-admitted to the hospital for his second brain surgery. Certainly, Hep's quick decision to bring in Lewis (who had begun the season opener the week before as the third stringer) won the game. Other than the receivers who caught his passes, no offensive player did anything. I try to avoid "intangibles" posts, which can quickly lapse into idiocy, but Hoeppner's decisiveness saved the day and avoided an embarrasing loss to an in-state MAC team.