Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
Stan Parrish could only chuckle when asked about last week’s 37-30 loss to Toledo.
Ball State took a 30-29 lead with 42 seconds remaining in the game after quarterback Kelly Page hit Torieal Gibson on a 10-yard touchdown pass and running back MiQuale Lewis ran for the two-point conversion.
But the lead lasted just 15 seconds.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kenny Veal ran the kick to the Toledo 49-yard line. Then Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt took over. He found Stephen Williams for a 51-yard touchdown to give the Rockets a dramatic win and Ball State a heartbreaking loss.
“We snatched defeat from victory,” Parrish said. “We had a chance to be nine points up with about 7 minutes to go, made a two-point play with 45 seconds to go and didn’t finish the deal. I give credit to Toledo for the plays they’ve made. We played well. We were right there. They’re a good football team. I think we’re a much-much improved football team, but we don’t have anything to show for it right now.”
Ball State has lost all five of its games this season, but none had been as heartbreaking as last week. Parrish said after the game he had to keep reassuring his team, which went 12-2 under coach Brady Hoke a year ago, that it was eventually going to get a win.
“My message was to walk out obviously with a chip on your shoulder about not finishing the game, yet understand where we’ve come in the last three or four weeks,” Parrish said. “We’re getting there. We’re getting there. We’re probably the most youthful team in the league and offensively we’ve really grown and we’ll have a tough test this week.”
Ball State is getting there. Each week it’s seemingly gained confidence and it's gotten better on offense. Parrish said he saw the change during the 54-30 loss to Auburn. While it was a 24-point loss, it was the most points the Cardinals had put on an opponent this season.
Parrish said he and the coaching staff revisited its offensive game plan and decided to simplify the scheme for Page and play to his strengths. It also helped the other freshmen and sophomores on offense who were struggling to adapt to the college game.
“After the first two weeks we were just a God-awful football team, particularly on offense,” Parrish said. “I thought we got a lot better at Auburn through a very, very tough situation and we battled through that and I really saw a lot of improvement that ... I see it every day in practice.”
Now the goal is to turn that energy into wins.
“As I’ve said before, you have to be half-crazy to do this anyway, but I see a tremendous light at the end of the tunnel for this team,” Parrish said. “We’ve just got to get over the hump and win a couple ballgames.”