Quarterback Keith Wenning and the Ball State Cardinals came up about 30 minutes short against No. 20 Northern Illinois.
Up 24-20 at the half, the Cardinals were held to three second-half points in a 48-27 loss Wednesday night.
"We just couldn't keep the drives going," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. "We'd move the ball, have long drives and get on their side of the field and then the drives would just kind of stall. I think that was the different from the first half to the second half."
Wenning was 20 of 26 for 198 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
"We knew what was on the line and it hurts," Wenning said. "We had too many mistakes. We'll try to come back and eliminate them."
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was good from start to finish.
"If Jordan isn't in the conversation for the Heisman I don't know what people are watching, they were asleep," Carey said. "In my estimation that trophy goes to the best player in the nation and with the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in that conversation."
Lynch threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores.
"I feel like I'm improving every week," Lynch said. "I still think the best is yet to come."
Lynch threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Da'Ron Brown to break a tie with 5:49 left, and the Huskies (10-0, 6-0 Mid-American) ran the nation's longest active home winning streak to 25 and their conference run to 23. The 10-0 mark is their best since the 1963 team finished 10-0.
Lynch added a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:26 to go, and defensive end Joe Windsor scored on a 49-yard interception return with 46 seconds left.
Lynch was 26 of 32 for 345 yards and ran for 123 yards on 20 carries. Brown had 12 receptions for 209 yards, also catching a 58-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
"He's a very good player," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. "He's fast, he's built like a linebacker, but he's got tailback speed. He's got a lot of savvy."
The victory preserved Northern Illinois' hopes for a second straight Bowl Championship Series appearance They played in the Orange Bowl last season and are 15th in the BCS rankings. They need to stay undefeated and pass Fresno State in the BCS to have a shot.
Wenning was 35 of 49 for 324 yards for Ball State (9-2, 6-1). Willie Snead had 12 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, and Jahwan Edwards ran for 156 yards and a score.
The loss ended the Cardinals' seven-game winning streak and 11-game MAC run.
The teams combined for three scores in the final 1:28 of the first half.
Edwards' 2-yard touchdown run — his school record 38th — gave Ball State a 21-13 lead, but Lynch and Brown combined on the 58-yard touchdown strike with 1:13 left to make it 21-20.
Scott Secor lined a successful 43-yard field goal into the wind with 30 seconds to go, and Sims missed a 52-yard try with a second left, leaving the Cardinals up 24-20.
Ball State had the ball to start the second half, but stalled at midfield and was forced to punt for only the second time.
Northern Illinois' subsequent drive included a key third-down 10-yard pickup by Lynch as he escaped two defenders, a fourth-down keeper for a first down at the Cardinals 47 and a fourth-and-goal touchdown run from the 1 by tailback Cameron Stingily for a 27-24 lead.
Northern Illinois stopped Ball State at the 1, forcing the Cardinals to settle for a 19-yard field goal that tied it at 27 with 3:07 to go in the third.
Lynch combined with Brown on a 54-yard pass to the Cardinals 10 early in the fourth quarter, but Brown fumbled and Ball State safety Brian Jones recovered at the 13.
Lynch and Brown teamed again for the go-ahead score with 5:49 left.
The Huskies resume play next Wednesday night at Toledo.
An estimated 240 Ball State students made the trip after Michigan coach Brady Hoke, a former Ball State coach, and former player Jason Whitlock each donated $5,000 for bus transportation.