OXFORD, Ohio (AP)—For the first time, Ball State is a perfect 10.
Nate Davis threw for a touchdown and ran for another in a quick-strike offense, and the 14th-ranked Cardinals stayed unbeaten by wearing down the Miami RedHawks for a 31-16 victory Tuesday night that made a little bit of school history.
Ball State improved to 10-0 for the first time, with six of the wins in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals matched their school record for victories — they went 10-1 in 1978. Their only perfect season came in 1949, when they won all eight games.
“We’re not trying to make history or anything like that,” linebacker Bryant Haines said. “We’re just focused on a conference championship.”
Along that line, they’ve got an important game up next. Ball State plays at Central Michigan next Wednesday, a game that could decide the MAC’s West champion. Last year, Central Michigan had its way in a 58-38 win at Muncie, Ind.
“What they did to us last year in our stadium—everybody’s got that in the back of their heads,” running back MiQuale Lewis said.
Coach Brady Hoke played on Ball State’s other 10-win team in 1978, giving him the best perspective on what this one means.
“It is an accomplishment, but we’ve got to win the conference championship,” he said. “We’ve weathered 10 storms. We’ve got two more to go. Believe me, those will be the biggest challenges.”
Miami (2-8, 1-5) hasn’t beaten a ranked team since Nov. 4, 2003, when Ben Roethlisberger led the RedHawks to an upset of Bowling Green. This one got away from them in the second half, when Lewis had two 1-yard touchdown runs. He finished with 165 yards, one shy of his career high, and caught two passes for 51 yards.
“He’s so deceptive and has got great presence and balance about him,” Hoke said. “A couple of times, he made a lot out of not that much there.”
The Cardinals lead the conference in offense and defense. With their exquisite balance, they’ve won every game by double digits. Nobody has been able to keep up as the points pile up.
Add Miami to the list.
“I thought we went toe-to-toe with them,” Miami coach Shane Montgomery said. “They’re a good football team, but they’re not much better than us. One thing we said we couldn’t afford to do was kick too many field goals, and that’s what we did.”
The RedHawks pulled off a goal-line stand on Ball State’s opening possession and held the Cardinals scoreless in the first quarter for only the second time this season. Miami then put together an 18-play drive that lasted 9:17 and set up Nathan Parseghian’s 39-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Didn’t last long. Two minutes later, the Cardinals went ahead to stay.
Davis’ 17-yard touchdown pass to Darius Hill finished a blink-of-the-eye drive that covered 54 yards. Davis finished 17-of-24 for 289 yards, with only one glaring mistake. He forced a pass that Joey Hudson intercepted at the 8-yard line in the third quarter, preventing the game from getting more lopsided.
Davis has thrown a touchdown pass in 26 of his last 27 games. He has thrown only six interceptions all season.
Another measure of the Cardinals’ smoothness: For the third straight game, they didn’t draw a penalty.
Miami’s strategy was to hold onto the ball behind junior quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh, who lost his job earlier in the season but was starting again because of Clay Belton’s shoulder injury. Raudabaugh completed his first 10 throws and later had a 49-yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens.
“Rankings are just a number other people put in front of your name,” Raudabaugh said. “They’ve got that bend-but-not-break defense and an explosive offense, but I think you can go out and play with anybody on any given Saturday or Tuesday or whatever.”
Raudabaugh finished 25-of-42 for 254 yards. The 14,758 fans started filtering out of the stadium when Armand Robinson dropped Raudabaugh’s fourth-down pass in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.