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Rapid Reaction: Ball State runs all over UB, 31-21

The University at Buffalo run defense has a giant big-play problem.

Ball State broke open a close game Saturday with an 80-yard touchdown run by James Gilbert and defeated the Bulls, 31-21.

A week after giving up 341 rushing yards to Kent State, UB was steamrolled on the ground by another Mid-American Conference foe.

Ball State rushed for 356 yards on 59 carries. The Cardinals got 262 yards on 33 carries from Gilbert.

UB gave up four runs of 40 or more yards in the loss to Kent State. It yielded three big-gainers this time. The 80-yard run put Ball State up for good, 21-14, in the third quarter. Gilbert also had big gainers of 50 and 23 yards.

UB held a 14-7 lead at halftime, but Ball State got back to basics in the second half and used its run game to take control. Gilbert had only 43 yards at halftime. He got 219 after intermission.

Records: Ball State improved to 4-3. UB fell to 1-5.

No return: UB almost scored on a fumble return in the second quarter. Demone Harris sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble that Jarrett Franlin scooped up at the UB 48. He returned it 49 yards to the Ball State 3. But most of the return was wiped out by a personal foul by UB’s Chris Ford on the runback. Instead of getting the ball near the goal line, UB took over at its own 43 and went three and out.

Zebra report: UB was the victim of a bad call on a punt return early in the second quarter. The punt by Ball State’s Kyle Schmidt into the wind was a low liner. UB’s Jamarl Eiland caught it near midfield and broke down the left sideline. He might have scored but the play was blown dead. It was ruled UB’s Jacob Martinez raised his arm for a fair catch. He didn’t. Martinez clearly was waving his arms sideways in an “incomplete” signal in order to tell his return team to stay away from the ball. UB took over at the Ball State 48 but was forced to punt. . . . In the third quarter, Jackson threw a 36-yard TD pass to Kamathi Holsey but it was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty. It was a dubious call. The officials apparently thought a tackle was slightly off the line. . . . Ball State’s fourth TD drive was aided by a third-down offsides call on UB. But Ball State RB Teddy Williamson moved first on the play.

Lineup notes: UB was without starting right tackle Tyler O’Henly (concussion). Junior David Goldsby started a second straight game in O’Henly’s spot. . . . UB junior receiver Jacob Martinez returned to action in a reserve role. He had been out with a shoulder injury since early in the opening game. . . . Ball State was without senior right tackle Stephen Bell. He was replaced by sophomore Kadin Booker, making his second career start. Ball State was without two starting wideouts, Corey Lacanaria and Jordan Hogue, last week but both were back to face UB.

Saints experience: Ball State coach Mike Neu spent the past two seasons working with Drew Brees as New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach. Neu has most of his experience in the pro game. He was QB coach at Tulane from 2012-13, after a stint as a Saints scout. Before that he spent 10 years coaching in arena football.

In the house: Paid attendance was 16,092.

Up next: UB visits Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Ill., at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Northern Illinois (1-6) has played in six straight MAC title games but it appears that streak will end. Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan, 34-28, in three overtimes.

Email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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