Keith Wenning's sparkling start carried Ball State to a better-than-expected first month of the season.
When that fell apart, the Cardinals stood no chance against No. 2 Oklahoma.
After a string of 176 straight passes without an interception, Wenning threw three to Sooners defensive back Tony Jefferson on consecutive second-quarter drives Saturday night to allow the Sooners (4-0) to start pulling away for a 62-6 victory.
''If you turn it over, you're not going to win,'' coach Pete Lembo said, noting that the Cardinals didn't turn the ball over in any of their three wins and have committed seven turnovers in their two road losses to ranked opponents.
Oklahoma made each turnover costly by cashing in for seven points again and again. By the time they were done with the turnover-fed 5 1/2-minute binge, a four-point lead had grown to 32.
''It was kind of weird. It just kept happening over and over again,'' Jefferson said.
Lembo called for a gutsy, and successful, onside kick to open the game but the Cardinals couldn't do anything with it and went three-and-out. They were still within 10-6 before Wenning's night went haywire with three interceptions to Jefferson in a span of four attempts.
On Ball State's first play after Dominique Whaley's 25-yard TD run, Sooners defensive end Frank Alexander tipped Wenning's pass high into the air, and Jefferson leaped to grab the ball. That set up Kenny Stills' 7-yard touchdown catch from Jones two plays later.
Jefferson ended Ball State's next drive by tipping Wenning's overthrown pass with his right hand and then corralling it along the Cardinals sideline. Roy Finch picked up 47 yards on a swing pass, and Whaley then punched it in with a 1-yard score on his fourth straight carry.
And Jefferson wasn't done yet.
He tracked down another batted ball - this time by R.J. Washington - for his third interception in a span of six offensive snaps by the Cardinals. Broyles scored two plays later on a 27-yard touchdown catch from Jones, capping the Sooners' sudden scoring spurt and make it 38-6.
''Our offensive line did everything they could to try to give me time and they got to me a couple times and batted a couple of balls,'' Wenning said.
''That's how interceptions happen, so you've got to give them credit.''
OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright had noticed while scouting Wenning that he had a low delivery, and he predicted that there would be a number of tipped balls. It ended up being critical in the game.
''They're very good at, when they feel like they can't get to the quarterback, coming under control and using some of those 40-inch vertical jumps to get up there and bat some balls,'' Lembo said.
Jefferson even had a shot at picking off a pass on four straight drives, when Wenning's throw clipped off Toreial Gibson's hands and then off of Jefferson's before falling incomplete. Jefferson said he dropped it because he was already thinking about making a spin move and running in for a touchdown.
''(Jefferson) was just in the right place at the right time,'' said Wenning, who was trying to throw away the interception that didn't get tipped at the line. ''He's a good player, so he made a couple plays.''
Wenning's counterpart, Landry Jones, threw for 425 yards and five touchdowns, including scores of 64 yards to Ryan Broyles and 56 yards to Jaz Reynolds a minute apart in the third quarter.
Tom Wort picked up where Jefferson left off, recovering Wenning's fumble and running it back 22 yards for a score that made it 59-6 with 11:34 left in the third quarter. That capped a 68-second span with three Oklahoma touchdowns, after the Sooners had already scored a pair of touchdowns 49 seconds apart twice in the first half.
Wenning, coming off a career-best 324-yard outing against Army last week, managed just 84 yards on 12-for-31 passing. The Cardinals were outgained 655-214 and got their only points on two Steven Schott field goals.
They return to MAC play next week with homecoming against Temple, already with an impressive win against Indiana to their credit and just one less win than all of last season.
''You have to have a short memory,'' Wenning said. ''Obviously this game hurts, but you've got to forget about it and move on.''