Allen Muse caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Fredi Knighten with 32 seconds remaining to lift Arkansas State past Ball State 23-20 at the GoDaddy Bowl on Sunday night.
Ball State had a chance to tie at the end of regulation, but Scott Secor's 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked as time expired.
Arkansas State (8-5) won the GoDaddy Bowl for a second straight season, despite losing starting quarterback Adam Kennedy to a knee injury in the second quarter. It was the Red Wolves' third straight trip to Mobile.
Knighten had 115 yards passing and 97 yards rushing. Muse, who considered quitting football following his father's suicide, wound up with the biggest catch of the night just five plays Ball State took a four-point lead that looked as if it could have held up.
Ball State (10-3) went ahead 20-16 with 1:33 remaining on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jahwan Edwards, but couldn't hold the lead. Edwards finished with a game-high 146 yards rushing.
Keith Wenning capped his Ball State career with 215 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. He's the first Ball State quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
For a second straight season, Arkansas State shrugged off a coaching change to win the GoDaddy Bowl.
Arkansas State lost coach Bryan Harsin to Boise State in December. He's the latest in a string of three ASU coaches, including Hugh Freeze (Mississippi) and Gus Malzahn (Auburn), who have left the program for a more high-profile job.
John Thompson was the team's interim coach for a second straight season, and the veteran defensive coordinator led a staff that managed to cobble together a workable offense without Kennedy.
But the Red Wolves couldn't turn productive drives into touchdowns, settling for short field goals from 18 and 29 yards during the third quarter to push ahead 16-10.
It nearly came back to haunt them.
Ball State's offense struggled for much of the night, but the Cardinals put together a 16-play drive in the fourth quarter, capped by Edwards' 1-yard run, to give Ball State a 20-16 lead.
The Red Wolves came right back, needing just five plays to march downfield. Knighten's pass was perfectly thrown to Muse in the back of the end zone for the 23-20 lead.
Ball State still had a chance to tie. The Cardinals drove downfield - and with the help of a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Arkansas State's Andrew Tryon for a late hit - lined up for the 38-yard field goal with two seconds left.
But it never got past the line of scrimmage, setting off an Arkansas State celebration that quickly spilled onto the field.
Ball State's normally prolific passing offense struggled early in the game. Wenning missed on four of his first five pass attempts - and also took a vicious hit on a sack by Rocky Hayes - so the Cardinals switched to the ground game and found some success.
Edwards rushed for 92 yards in the first half, including 44 yards on a 14-play drive that ended with Wenning's 9-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead.
It helped Ball State push out to a 10-3 lead by late in the second quarter, but Arkansas State responded with its own long drive just before halftime, capped by Sirgregory Thornton's 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 10.
Wenning, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior, holds just about every passing record in Ball State history, but struggled in his finale. He completed 23 of 44 passes.
Arkansas State has hired former North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson to be the program's fifth head coach in five seasons. Anderson attended Sunday's game, but didn't coach.
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