The Missouri State football team lost a gritty battle against No. 22 Oklahoma State 23-16 to open the season.
“We truly believed that we’d find a way to win it in the fourth quarter,” head coach Bobby Petrino said in a postgame interview on KWTO 101.3 FM. “We made a lot of great plays. I was just happy our players competed as hard as they possibly could.”
The Bears got off to a rough start in the game. Early penalties on offense and OSU’s up-tempo offense gave the Bears some issues.
OSU sophomore quarterback Shane Illingworth was doing damage in the first half. On the first drive, he connected with senior wide receiver Tay Martin four times, including a five-yard score to give the Cowboys a 6-0 lead.
MSU was unable to answer OSU, but the offense looked much improved and more explosive than last year.
Senior quarterback Jason Shelley showed the ability to create plays with his arms and legs inside the play design and when plays broke down.
“I think he’s going to be really, really good,” Petrino said. “He settled in and competed hard and made good decisions in the last three quarters of the game.”
The teams traded punts before the Bears reached scoring position. A delay of game penalty on fourth down pushed a field goal attempt from 46 yards to 51 yards that was missed by junior kicker Jose Pizano.
The Cowboys took advantage of the good field position.
Illingworth completed three passes for 52 yards on the drive and a pass interference penalty in the endzone set up the Cowboys at the three-yard line. Redshirt senior running back Jaylen Warren punched in a one-yard score, giving OSU a 13-0 lead at the start of the second quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage, a mishandled handoff resulted in a fumble and an OSU recovery at the MSU 25 yard line.
The Cowboys scored two plays later courtesy of an 11-yard scamper from redshirt senior running back LD Brown, making the score 20-0.
After an MSU punt and an OSU turnover on downs, the Bears put together a 10 play, 43-yard scoring drive. Pizano made good on a 30-yard kick for MSU’s first points of the season, making the score 20-3.
On the ensuing drive, Illingworth led the Cowboys near scoring range but junior cornerback Montrae Braswell intercepted him to end the half.
The Bears improved as the game went on. The defense created more stops and the offense moved the ball more fluidly and efficiently.
On OSU’s first four offensive drives of the half, the MSU defense only allowed 51 yards and forced three punts and a fumble.
“You’ve got to be proud of our defensive front, our linebackers and our safeties,” Petrino said. “It was a total team effort versus the run.”
The Bears only allowed 54 rushing yards on 28 attempts throughout the game.
Efficient passing by Shelley and big runs by redshirt junior running back Kevon Latulas put MSU in scoring positions.
Pizano nailed a 48-yard field goal to make the score 20-6 and followed up with a 33-yard field goal to make the score 20-9 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys answered the Bears field goals with one of their own. Redshirt junior kicker Alex Hale made a 35-yard field goal, making the score 23-9.
Each team punted a pair of times before things got crazy.
Senior receiver Xavier Lane was Shelley’s favorite target, catching eight passes for 76 yards. Lane hauled in two passes for 28 yards on the eventual scoring drive.
Shelley connected with junior receiver Tyrone Scott a few plays later for an eight-yard touchdown, making the score 23-16.
The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by OSU and recovered by MSU, setting the Bears up with a short field and an opportunity to take the lead.
Negative plays and penalties derailed the drive and MSU turned the ball over on downs.
OSU took over deep in its own territory but after a short run and two incomplete passes punted the ball back to MSU.
Shelley led the Bears down to the OSU 26 with 15 seconds left in the game.
The Cowboys sent a lot of pressure and sacked Shelley on third and fourth down to end the game.
“We had a chance there at the end to score another touchdown and see what would happen on the two-point play,” Petrino said. “That’s what we were really hoping for.”
The Bears will be at home in Plaster Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 11 to take on Central Arkansas at 7 p.m.
Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_
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