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Davis, Lewis help unbeaten Ball State spank Northern Illinois

MUNCIE, Ind. -- Ball State's Nate Davis pulled everything together perfectly Wednesday night.

The nifty pump fakes, the soft lobs, the precise deep balls, the low liners, even the right running plays. If he proved anything, it was this: The 16th-ranked and undefeated Cardinals are ready for prime time -- and perhaps a run at a BCS bowl game.

The junior quarterback picked apart the Mid-American Conference's top-ranked defense, throwing for four touchdowns and running for another, while MiQuale Lewis ran for 119 yards and a TD in a 45-14 victory over Northern Illinois.

"Everybody talks about going undefeated, but we just talk about trying to make every play that we can," Davis said.

He and his teammates certainly achieved that much as a national television audience got a glimpse of college football's least-known undefeated team. What they saw was impressive.

Davis looked incredibly efficient, finishing 18-of-22 for 300 yards while breaking Mike Neu's school record for completions. Neu had 580 in his career; Davis has 592.

Lewis, ranked seventh in the nation in rushing before the game, topped the 1,000-yard mark in the first half and finished with his ninth straight 100-yard game for Ball State (9-0, 5-0).

Receiver Louis Johnson, who had just nine catches all season, caught six passes for 165 yards and a TD.

And the staunch Northern Illinois defense never had a chance.

The Huskies (5-4, 4-2) gave up a season-high point total, allowing more than four times as many points as they had against Tennessee and nearly six times as many as they had in the last six games, five of them victories.

It wasn't what Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill expected.

"There's no question that of the teams we've played this year that Ball State is the best football team we've played," said Kill, whose team lost to Minnesota and the Volunteers in nonconference games. "Their quarterback is outstanding, they're fundamentally sound in all phases of the game and I have great respect for what they've done here."

But the Huskies' mistakes were the biggest problem.

Penalties and poor punts repeatedly put Ball State in good field position, and Davis made them pay for it.

After forcing an early punt, Kiaree Daniels ran into Ball State punter Chris Miller, drawing a 15-yard penalty to extend the drive. Davis responded by throwing a 33-yard strike on the run to Briggs Orsbon at the Huskies 1. Two plays later, Lewis ran left, split two defenders, spun away from a third and dived into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

"We wanted to start fast," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said. "I thought it was important for us to show confidence in our guys on offense and we knew that we could do some good things."

Midway through the second quarter, Ball State struck again. Davis took advantage of a short punt by hooking up with Johnson on a 33-yard completion, and on third-and-4 from Northern's 6, Davis threw a perfect lob to 6-foot-6 tight end Darius Hill, who was shielding the defender like a basketball player fighting for a rebound. That made it 14-0.

The Cardinals were just getting warmed up.

"I don't think it had anything to do with mistmatches," Kill said. "I think physically, they're the better football team. They beat us to the punch."

Davis followed with a precise 25-yard line drive to Daniel Ifft late in the first half for a 21-0 lead.

Northern's Chandler Harnish opened the second half with a 25-yard TD run, but Lewis' 64-yard run on the ensuing drive set up Davis' 1-yard TD plunge.

Then, after a replay review wiped out a 71-yard TD pass from Davis to Johnson, Davis went right back to Johnson for a 22-yard TD on the next play. Fittingly, Davis finished his night with a one-play drive -- a 20-yard touchdown pass to Hill early in the fourth quarter that made it 45-7.

Harnish was 14-of-22 for 115 yards with one interception and led the team with 12 carries for 59 yards.

But the Cardinals weren't bragging.

"The biggest thing is we've got to keep our heads straight," Davis said.