The Missouri State football team overcame a nine point first half deficit to beat South Dakota 31-23 in its Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.
The first few minutes were tough for Missouri State.
After forcing SD to punt on its first possession, sophomore receiver Hunter Wood muffed the punt and gave the Coyotes the ball at the MSU eight-yard line.
On the following play, redshirt freshman running back Travis Theis punched it in, giving SD a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing MSU drive, senior quarterback Jason Shelley was sacked and fumbled the ball. SD took over at the MSU 21 yard line and scored on the next play.
Freshman quarterback Carson Camp found junior receiver Kody Case over the middle for a 21-yard score, giving the Coyotes a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Despite the rough start, MSU battled back and answered the Coyotes scores with one of its own.
Shelley’s rushing ability helped MSU put together a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped off by a 26-yard rush by Shelley, making the score 14-7.
“When you go through adversity like that, that's how you get better and stronger,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “It was good to see the guys step up and make plays.”
The next eight possessions of the game either ended in a punt or a turnover on downs before the scoring started again.
After freshman Coyote running back Shamori Lawrence fumbled mid-carry due to injury, senior safety Kyriq McDonald recovered the fumble and MSU took over at the SD 46 yardline.
On the following play, Shelley lofted the ball to junior receiver Tyrone Scott for a 46-yard bomb, tying the game at 14 with under two minutes in the half.
“Anybody in our receiver core can do what I did,” Scott said. “We’ve got faith in each other and we know our room is one of the most critical pieces to this team so we come in and put our head down and work every week.”
Because one team isn’t allowed to have a big play without the other team having one, Wesley Eliodor took the following kickoff 99 yards to the house. A blocked extra point attempt gave SD a 20-14 lead with under two minutes left in the half.
MSU would punt on the following drive, and MSU’s defensive play calling and timeout usage allowed SD to drive deep into MSU territory with two seconds left in the half.
Kicker Mason Lorber nailed a 27-yard field goal to give the Coyotes a 23-14 lead at the end of the first half.
Halftime adjustments were key for the Bears again — especially on defense.
After giving up 23 points in the first half, MSU’s defense allowed zero points and only 134 total yards in the second half.
“I personally think we came out sluggish,” senior defensive end Kevin Ellis said. “In my personal opinion, I think we’re more of a second half team anyway. After halftime we just come out with that motor and that fire.”
MSU’s first drive of the half stalled at the SD 22 yard line. Junior kicker Jose Pizano nailed a 42-yard field goal, making the score 23-17 early in the third quarter.
After the teams traded punts, MSU looked to take the lead for the first time in the game.
A mix of running and passing from Shelley led the Bears to the Coyote three yard line. From there, Shelley connected with redshirt junior running back Kevon Latulas for a touchdown, giving MSU a 24-23 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
With SD looking to answer, the Bear defense came up big.
Senior safety Titus Wall broke on a pass and popped the ball in the air. Senior linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua came down with the interception deep in SD territory.
Shelley went to work again, scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game from 12 yards out, giving MSU a 31-23 lead that it would never surrender with four minutes left.
The Coyotes tried everything they could to score, but the Bear defense was too much.
Junior cornerback Montrae Braswell intercepted Camp’s endzone heave to seal the victory for the Bears with 41 seconds left.
MSU is headed to Normal, Illinois to face the Illinois State Redbirds at 2 p.m.
Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_
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