Former Marine Crawford powers Ball State's late shutdown of Navy

MUNCIE, Ind. -- An ex-Marine helped Ball State's defense scuttle the Navy.

Nate Davis passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns, but it was Brandon Crawford and the rest of the Cardinals' defense that repeatedly came up with the big plays in the second half of a 35-23 victory over the Midshipmen on Friday night.

"It's a great feeling, but at the same time I had to let my teammates know what's expected of them," said Crawford, a 32-year-old defensive end who served four years in the Marines. "Me being the leader, I told them we were going to keep doing the things that mattered.

"I was going to keep fighting hard, and I expected the same from them."

Navy, which had 558 yards rushing last week against Towson, managed a modest 346 yards against Ball State.

More important, the Cardinals, 2-0 for the first time since 1995, held the Midshipmen (1-1) on downs at the 3 after Navy threatened to take the lead late in the third quarter. Ball State then turned back another threat with B.J. Hill's interception at the 9 midway through the final period. Finally, Navy got the ball back with under 5 minutes to go after a punt, but the Cardinals again stopped the Midshipmen on downs and ran out the final 1:45 for the victory.

Crawford, a team captain, had four tackles, including one for a loss of yardage. Linebacker Bryant Haines had a game-high 15 tackles, including one sack, and was in on the big fourth-and-1 stop at the 3.

"Toward the end of the game, we started to figure them out," Haines said. "That was a pivotal point of the game. That was a momentum-turning point."

Davis passed for 215 yards in the first half, including touchdowns of 61 yards to Dante Love on the second play of the game and 30 yards to freshman Briggs Orsbon late in the second quarter. Love, who tied a school record with his 11th game of at least 100 yards receiving, also rushed for a touchdown and caught a go-ahead 8-yard TD pass from Davis midway through the third quarter.

Love finished with nine receptions for 165 yards.

"I'm always trying to create mismatches," Love said. "Everytime I get the ball, I want to make something happen."

After Love's second touchdown catch put Ball State ahead 28-23, Navy threatened to take the lead again late in the third period. Shun White, who last week set a Navy rushing record with 348 yards and three TDs, was stopped at the 3, and quarterback Jarod Bryant, who ran for Navy's first two touchdowns, was held for no gain on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Cardinals.

Ball State then put the game out of reach with a 97-yard drive, scoring the clinching touchdown on a 35-yard pass from Davis to Darius Hill early in the final period.

"It's a game we thought would go to the fourth quarter, and it did," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said. "We didn't play as well as we needed to in the first half, but our kids were resilient.

"Navy is a tough football team."

Davis's 326 yards left him 13 yards short of the Ball State career record of 6,271 by Mike Neu in 1990-93.

Navy moved the ball easily against Ball State early in the game but had to settle for field goals by Matt Harmon on each of its first three possessions.

His first was a career-long 49 yards, but Ball State came right back on the next series, and passes of 37 yards to Love and 15 yards to MiQuale Lewis set up Love's 6-yard TD run for a 14-3 lead.

The only TDs for Navy were on runs by Bryant late in the first half and early in the third quarter. Bryant finished with 94 yards on 31 carries. White had 128 yards on 13 runs.

"We had some great plays on offense. Defensively, we made a few mistakes and Ball State was able to capitalize," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

"They have multiple weapons and they play good control football. We tried to pick our spots in containing them, but it was difficult for us."