The early parts of Missouri State’s eventual 37-7 homecoming win had been relatively uneventful in the first half.
Outside of a field goal in the middle of the first quarter, both Missouri State and Indiana State had traded punts and turnovers until the 2:19 mark of the second quarter.
Then it was very eventful.
MSU redshirt-junior quarterback Jason Shelley threw a deep ball to senior receiver Xavier Lane for a 45-yard touchdown catch.
On the ensuing kickoff freshman Steven Ward, who graduated from Nixa high school, forced a fumble that was recovered by the Bears. Shelley ran the ball in on a bootleg pass three plays later.
On the kickoff after the Shelley touchdown, Ward forced another fumble and the Bears took over at the Indiana State 35. Shelley threw a 26-yard pass to junior receiver Tyrone Scott for another touchdown, giving Missouri State a 24-0 lead going into halftime.
“We’ve had a few games where special teams had been a huge difference,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “Then we had the one play a week ago that the coverage team was upset about. They got the ball out twice and it turned into 14 points. That’s huge.”
The Bears kept up the pressure in the second half, scoring 13 points off of a Scott touchdown catch and two field goals by junior kicker Jose Pizano to win 37-7.
Missouri State’s defense kept the Sycamores in check all game, with both junior safety Kyriq McDonald and junior linebacker Tylar Wiltz breaking up multiple passes. Indiana State ended the game with 84 rushing yards, 177 passing yards and seven points. One of the biggest stats was Indiana State’s third down conversion rate. The Sycamores only converted one third down on eleven attempts.
The win was a direct response to the Bears’ disappointing loss to Youngstown State last weekend, a game MSU was heavily favored going in. Wiltz said the coaching staff was strict in enforcing a strong mindset in the week leading up to the game.
“The whole week (the coaches) were saying that y’all going to have to show everyone that even though Youngstown (State) beat y’all, y’all still one of the best teams in the nation,” Wiltz said. “Something that was real real crazy as far as cracking down in practice — we came down and it was seven-on-seven... We were just starting it and I had my hands on my hips. Multiple plays (the coaches) just ran up to me like ‘Yo, take your hands off your hips. We don’t got time to be doing that. We need to be locked in — don’t show nobody you’re tired.”
The Bears play next weekend at No. 3 North Dakota State. The Bison beat Illinois State 20-0 on Saturday.
Follow Stephen Terrill on Twitter, @stevethe2nd
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