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Indiana improves in 41-39 loss to Ball St.

Associated Press Modified: September 16, 2012 at 1:02 am •  Published: September 16, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana coach Kevin Wilson didn't quibble with the way his team played or the calls that went against him Saturday night -- only with the final result.

The Hoosiers battled back from an 11-point first half deficit behind their new starting quarterback and a 13-point deficit in the final five minutes of the game to retake the lead behind their new No. 2 quarterback and then failed to come up with the one stop they desperately needed to end this losing streak against the Cardinals.

Keith Wenning threw three touchdown passes, caught one himself and led a final drive that set up Steven Schott for a 42-yard goal as time expired, giving the Cardinals their third straight win over the Hoosiers, 41-39.

"I got a lot of respect for Ball State, but I got a lot of respect for this young football team. This is a good team, and a lot better team than most of you think with your little smirks out there, OK?" Wilson said. "This is a good team that's going to get a heck of a lot better every day, every second."

Few losses have come in such frustrating fashion for these Hoosiers (2-1), who had seemingly wrapped up the win when Nate Sudfeld threw a 2-yard TD pass to Shane Wynn with 49 seconds to go.

But Wenning completed passes of 14 yards and 12 yards before Willie Snead made an improbable 18-yard diving catch as he slid out of bounds with 1 second left on the clock, just moments after the officials had added 1 second to the game clock during Ball State's final timeout. A replay review confirmed the call on the field, to the dismay of Hoosiers fans and the delight of Cardinals fans.

Schott then made the 42-yarder to win it.

Afterward, the Hoosiers barely mentioned the controversial finish and instead blamed themselves for the one thing they didn't get done -- stopping Ball State on that one play.

"I was rushing the quarterback, the play happened, they reviewed it, it was a catch," Hoosiers defensive tackle Adam Replogle said. "So, they reviewed it, there's nothing you can do about it. The catch was a catch, we just had to come out the next play and get the field goal."

The Cardinals (2-1) are now 3-49 all-time against BCS conference schools. All three wins have come over the Hoosiers (2-1) in the past four years, two of those in Bloomington. The other was at Lucas Oil Stadium.

This one may not have happened without Wenning.

The junior quarterback was 26 of 44 for 222 yards with three touchdowns. He ran six times for 40 yards. He caught his first college pass, a 12-yard TD reception from receiver Jamill Smith, to put Ball State back in front in the third quarter, and he closed it out by moving the Cardinals 44 yards in the final 49 seconds.

But it was Wenning's composure that really proved the difference.

He didn't allow the Cardinals to get rattled during the first-half shootout, didn't get overly concerned when the Hoosiers scored on a 2-point conversion run with 5 seconds left in the first half to take a 25-24 lead and didn't fret when the Hoosiers rallied from a 38-25 deficit to retake a 39-38 lead with two touchdowns in the final four minutes.

Instead, Wenning went back to work.

"We had to either complete it and get out of bounds or throw it incomplete and stop the clock," Wenning said. "With 7 seconds, it's risky, but we were too far out. We needed a field goal, so we just took a chance there."

The gamble paid off for Ball State.

And it cost Indiana a chance at their second 3-0 start in three years.

A week after losing starting quarterback Tre Roberson for the season with a broken left leg, they went with junior college transfer Cameron Coffman, who was terrific in the first half. He rallied the Hoosiers from a 14-3 first-half deficit to a 25-24 halftime lead.

Indiana didn't do anything in the third quarter and after going 24 of 35 for 251 yards with two TDs in his first college start, Coffman left the game with a hip-pointer.

Wilson sent in Sudfeld, the only other scholarship quarterback on his roster, trailing 38-25.

Sudfeld hooked up with Cody Latimer on a 70-yard TD pass to make it 38-32 with 4:07 to play. And with the help of three pass-interference calls, Sudfeld marched the Hoosiers 77 yards in 53 seconds, throwing a 2-yard TD pass to Shane Winn with 49 seconds left. Mitch Ewald's extra point gave Indiana a seemingly safe 39-38 lead.

Wenning and Schott had the answer for that, too.

They stayed calm, made plays and had a couple of calls go their way.

"The kids are obviously excited and it's just a very humbling experience right now. This is a great place, Indiana is much improved and it was a great college football game tonight," Cardinals coach Pete Lembo said. "They're better and I'd like to think we're a little better, too."