The Ball State Cardinals have been playing football since 1924, but in nine previous trips to a bowl game they had come up empty. However that dubious streak came to an end with a 34-13 win over the San Jose State Spartans on Wednesday in the Arizona Bowl.
The Spartans entered the game as 9.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, but were never able to get on track and make a game of it.
The Cardinals raced out to a 27-0 lead with 1:04 left in the first quarter, and forced four interceptions from Spartans quarterback Nick Starkel on the day. Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt was 12-19 for 217 yards and a touchdown, while only attempting only five passes in the second half. Yo’Heinz Tyler caught four passes for 103 yards and that receiving TD.
Starkel’s struggles led to issues in the run game as well, with 22 carries netting only 69 yards for SJSU (7-1) on the ground. The Mountain West champions lost the opportunity for a perfect season, and an article this week from Sportico detailing issues in a program completing a perfect regular season likely didn’t help.
The Cardinals were 0-8-1 in postseason before today’s victory, having moved to the I-A/FBS level for the first time in 1975.