TOLEDO – Toledo running back David Fluellen entered Tuesday's Mid-American Conference football game with Ball State amidst a lot of hype and hoopla – and with good reason. The third-leading rusher in the country exhibited his ability and finished with 200 yards gained on the ground.
However, following the Cardinals' 34-27 victory over the 23rd-ranked Rockets (8-2, 5-1 MAC), one could make an argument that Flueleen wasn't the most valuable back on the field last night.
With the score tied at 27 and just over six minutes remaining, Ball State (7-3, 4-2) got the ball and embarked on an 11-play drive, six of which were handed off to Cardinal runner Jahwan Edwards.
The sophomore had gains of 17, 19 (on a critical third down) and 15 (on the game-winning score) on the drive and totaled 105 yards rushing, including 72 in the final quarter. He has now run for 1,054 yards this season.
Cardinal linebacker took advantage of a big hit by teammate Jason Pinkston on Fluellen in the second quarter and when the Rocket runner fumbled the ball, Martin saw a great opportunity unfold – slowly – in front of his eyes.
The senior picked up the loose ball and sprinted 54 yards to the Toledo 11-yard line.
“It was really in slow motion,” Martin explained, “I was pursuing to the ball, it was an outside play, so I was working my way to the ball and I just saw it on the ground.”
The Ball State defensive coaches have drilled into their players' minds what to do in this situation, so though the play was happening, Martin knew exactly what to do.
“We have a drill where we work on scooping and scoring,” Martin said. “So I was like, here's my opportunity.”
It was the fourth career forced fumble for Pinkston and the third career recovery for Martin, whose 54-yard return was the longest return of any kind for the Cardinals this season.
Freeman is fierce
There is no active college football player that has been as active in hitting offensive opponents as Travis Freeman, and the Cardinal linebacker kept that achievement moving in the right direction, with ferocity, on Tuesday.
The senior linebacker teamed with sophomore defensive end Nick Miles to lead the Cardinals with 11 tackles each. It was the seventh time in 10 games this season that Freeman has led the Cardinals in tackles. He now has 443 career tackles.
A step back in time
With the victory over the Rockets, Ball State accomplished a number of feats that it hadn't done since the magical 2008 season.
It was the Cardinals first win over a nationally-ranked foe since it beat Toledo (it was ranked 23rd at the time as well) in 2001.
Ball State now has seven wins, which is the most since 2008. Also, Tuesday's victory was the Cardinals' fourth consecutive win, which is the first time that has happened since 2008.