Game 120: Northern Illinois @ Ball State

Ball State University might want to replace their maintenance staff with NIU tailback Garrett Wolfe as he covered more ground and clipped more blades of grass with his shoes than John Deere could with a fleet of mowers. On an evening where nearly every type of imaginable weather came over Sheumann Stadium, nothing could stop the nation’s leading rusher.

Just coming from a rainy blowout in Bloomington, we were pleased to begin the evening began with sunny skies and a couple of teams battling whole-heartedly. The “Pride of Mid America” band marched proudly outside the stadium while the Ball State cardinal rode around on a golf cart greeting fans. Garrett Wolfe got the scoring started with a 51 yard scamper. Ball State’s star receiver, Darius Hill, answered with a 19 yard TD catch of his own.

With the score tied at seven and fans realizing that this game had the makings of a classic MAC battle, the winds of change literally blew through the stands. Sunny skies suddenly grew ominous as billowing black clouds began to creep over the stadium. Wind gusts took a sudden hold of anything lightweight, swirling papers, dust, and cups into the air. Before an announcement was made to clear the stands, fans had already taken nature’s cue to seek shelter immediately. Huddled fans beneath the stands wondered if the game would continue as an apparent lightning cell swept over Muncie. Many fans took the weather as a sign to leave, but those hardy faithful who waited out the storm were able to witness an amazing performance.

Garrett Wolfe came into the season as the nation’s leading returning rusher. Coming into this game, he was averaging over 200 yards a game and leading the nation in rushing. Today’s performance only separated him further from the pack. His small size doesn’t stop him from being effective. His ability to bounce to the outside, turn the corner, and outrun the secondary is his most dangerous weapon. Running for 353 yards on the day and totaling 1,189 yards already for the season proves his ability. Talk of his appearance at the Heisman presentation in New York began to intensify among the NIU fans in attendance. Much like every team they have faced including the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, the Cardinals could not stop the Huskie offense whenever Wolfe had the ball.

Ball State managed a few late scores making the 40-28 final appear closer than the actual result. Huskie fans cheered loud and proud as their team exited the soggy field. With Ball State’s fourth straight loss, their season looked as though it was hitting a lightning delay, while Northern Illinois seemed ready to take the conference by storm.

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