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Oct. 05, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP)– Virginia came into the game against Ball State looking for some spark from an offense that has been dreadful against FBS competition.

The defense? No worries. Other than No. 2 Oregon, no team had been able to get much going against a Cavaliers team giving up only 299 yards per game.

But a Ball State team averaging 40 points per game was more than good enough, rolling to 29 first downs and 506 total yards in a 48-27 victory Saturday. Keith Wenning threw for 346 yards to become Ball State’s all-time passing leader, Jahwan Edwards ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cardinals got plenty of help from a Virginia defense that committed drive-sustaining penalties and managed only one quarterback sack.

“A lack of poise,” Virginia coach Mike London said of the penalties. “I can count probably three or four of them that extended the drive, third-down penalties that extended the drive and that’s something that hurts you. I don’t know how many led to scores. I’ll look at that and we’ll critique that more, but you’ve got to have poise in those situations.”

Here’s at least part of what he will be looking at: A personal foul on Ball State’s first scoring drive, a roughing the passer penalty against Eli Harold that negated his sack and led to a Cardinals field goal, and facemask and offsides infractions that didn’t directly cost Virginia points but flipped field position just ahead of a couple of costly Virginia turnovers. Wenning also got a free shot when he saw a flag fly for another offsides penalty, so he went deep to Willie Snead for a 42-yard gain to set up Ball State’s second TD.

The defense wasn’t the only culprit. The Virginia offense moved the ball better, compiling 459 yards and scoring more points than it had other than the 49 it put up in a shutout of FCS team VMI, but it also made plenty of mistakes. Watford overthrew what looked to be two sure touchdowns on one early possession, a long touchdown pass to freshman first-time starter Keon Johnson was nullified by a holding penalty, and an apparent 81-yard TD pass to Tim Smith was called back when another freshman making his first start — tackle Eric Smith — was called for being an ineligible receiver downfield.

“The whole passing game, guys have to be in tune with what’s going on,” London said. “It looked like out there today that guys weren’t in tune as we needed to be because of the turnovers and the missed opportunities to covert third downs and move the chains.”

Virginia ended up with 13 penalties for 93 yards, while Ball State was penalized just once for 15 yards. Virginia also had four turnovers to Ball State’s zero.

“At the end of the day it comes down to playing relatively mistake-free football, which we did today,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said.

Wenning also ran for a score, and his 72-yard TD pass to Williams not only put him atop the school passing chart but sent many of the less than two-thirds capacity crowd of 38,228 scurrying for the exits. Wenning credited his success Saturday to his line.

“The strength of their defense is the defensive line and I think our offensive line played their butts off,” Wenning said. “I am so proud of those guys. They gave me enough time to pick them apart a little bit and we created some big plays with the running and passing game.”

Virginia defensive tackle Brent Urban said quick throws made it tough to get pressure on Wenning.

“We’ve got to try our best to get there, and we obviously didn’t,” he said.

Virginias started two new wide receivers after the coaches counted 10 drops in last week’s 14-3 loss to Pittsburgh. Also, Watford threw deep more often than in previous games, preventing Ball State from crowding the line to stop a running game that generated 236 yards — 104 by Kevin Parks, had two touchdowns. But Virginia couldn’t overcome the mistakes.

“At the end of the day it comes down to playing relatively mistake-free football, which we did today,” Lembo said.

“It’s frustrating, but we have to keep grinding,” Parks said.

Virginia led 17-7 after Watford’s 27-yard touchdown run, which was initially ruled short but was overturned after video review confirmed he nicked the pylon with the ball. The Cardinals scored the next 17 points to take the lead on Wenning’s 1-yard run before Parks scored from 2 yards out to tie it at 24.

Edwards’ 32-yard scoring run put Ball State ahead to stay.

Jordan had 159 yards receiving for Ball State, and Snead had 104.

Watford finished 21 of 36 for 290 yards.

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