Football 11.13.21 File

Hessefort and Coach prepare for impact as they celebrate Indiana State's fumble. The Bears beat Indiana State 37-7 on Oct. 16 during Homecoming week.

The Cardiac Bears won another thriller in Plaster Stadium, defeating Northern Iowa 34-27 on a 55-yard touchdown from redshirt sophomore receiver Naveon Mitchell with 58 seconds remaining.

The win certainly cements the Bears as a Football Championship Subdivision playoff team and even puts them in national bid territory, earning them a first round bye. 

“We keep it exciting,” head coach Bobby Petrino said.

UNI needed to go for it on fourth and 14 to keep the hopes of winning alive. Not only did the Panthers convert, redshirt sophomore Theo Day connected with junior receiver Deion McShane for an 18-yard score, tying the game at 27 with 1:41 left.

This put the Bears in a situation that they’re all too familiar with—needing to make a play to win the game.

“When (UNI) scored it was kind of like ‘Ugh, wow, we gotta do this again,’” senior quarterback Jason Shelley said. “There's always confidence in me and my guys. I feel like we have one of the best two-minute offenses in the country and I guess it showed today.”

Shelley’s throw to Mitchell was designed perfectly.

UNI had been giving the Bears a two-safety shell for a majority of the game, making it hard to attack the seams and the middle of the field.

With time winding down and a big play being needed, Petrino dialed up the perfect play. 

“We had been working the boundary pretty good,” Petrino said. “We threw the back into the boundary and called four verticals and Jason did a great job of reading it. He threw a strike right on time and Naveon made a great run.”

UNI rotated from a cover-two shell to a cover-three shell post-snap to protect the boundary that the Bears had been attacking, opening up the seams and making four-verticals a great play call to combat it. 

“On that play you gotta attack the seams, and that's what I did,” Shelley said. “I looked the safety off and found my guy number seven right here and he did the rest of the work.”

Mitchell finished with three catches for 74 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Before the game, Mitchell only had 10 catches for 122 yards on the season, but he stepped up when his team needed a big play.

“I’m just always ready, honestly,” Mitchell said. “I’m always ready, I’m always prepared, I’m always waiting for my chance.”

The passing offense had to get going for the Bears to come away with the win. The Panther defensive front held MSU to just 59 rushing yards and 1.8 yards per carry.

“They’re good. They stop everybody on the ground,” Petrino said.

Shelley finished with 320 yards passing, one touchdown and broke MSU’s single-season record for passing yards while doing so. 

“It's an honor, especially to showcase my talent this year” Shelley said. “Work’s not finished. We’ve got another two games because we’re going to the playoffs.”

The Bears are playing poised, calculated and explosive football right now—a winning concoction for the regular season and playoffs.

Currently being ranked No. 14 in the FCS coaches poll is a good thing, but South Dakota State falling to South Dakota 23-20 today should push the Bears even higher in the poll.

SDSU’s loss also helps MSU in the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings.

The Jackrabbits loss to SD put the Bears in second place in the MVFC. A North Dakota State loss to the same SD team would give MSU a share of the MVFC for a second consecutive season, something that hasn't been done since the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

If that happens, MSU could be in line for a high seed and a first round bye in the FCS playoffs. 

The Bears travel to St. George, Utah to face Dixie State on Saturday, Nov. 20.


Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_

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