After being in an 11-point hole for a good part of the second half, the Missouri State football team rallied and defeated North Dakota 32-28 on a last-second touchdown.
“Wow. What a win,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “It was just an awesome way to win a game.”
The Bears did a lot of good things today on both sides of the ball. Here are the biggest reasons they were able to win the thriller over the Fighting Hawks.
Big plays are crucial for any offense to maintain success and score points. MSU didn’t have a lot of chunk plays last year and Petrino wanted to address that issue.
Today, those chunk plays were common and instrumental.
MSU tallied six passing plays of 15 yards or more and five rushing plays of 10 yards or more.
Senior quarterback Jason Shelley connected with junior receiver Tyrone Scott for completions of 30, 24 and 35 yards throughout the game. The biggest completion might’ve been a 39-yarder to redshirt sophomore receiver Naveon Mitchell with 1:39 left in the game.
“I just didn’t feel like (ND) could cover our receivers,” Petrino said. “Jason can distribute the ball well and we had good matchups.”
Shelley finished the game with 349 passing yards and three touchdowns and averaged 12 yards per completion.
Effective Run Game
Senior running back Tobias Little is usually the goal line back who comes up with a couple touchdowns a game, but that was not the case today.
Little dominated the game from start to finish, racking up 111 rushing yards on 7.4 yards per carry — the first 100-yard rushing game of his college career.
“The run game opens up the pass game,” Little said. “Once I get going, we all go.”
And get going Little did. He consistently popped off runs for 10+ and broke several tackles on nearly every attempt he had.
His ability to move the ball well on the ground opened things up for the offense and allowed other guys to make big plays.
Senior tight end Isaac Smith caught the game winning touchdown with 15 seconds left to complete the comeback for the Bears.
“Plays like that separate good and great teams,” Smith said. “I’m glad we took the chance and punched it in.”
This team has had some wild finishes over the last two seasons and they’ve come up with a name for themselves because of all the close victories they’ve had.
“It's a joke we have going on. We call ourselves the ‘Cardiac Bears’ because we give ourselves heart attacks every game,” Smith said.
From the spring to the fall, the Bears have found ways to make plays when they’re needed the most.
The offense scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter making big play after big play.
The defense also made big plays, forcing and recovering two fumbles in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to score those 14 unanswered points.
“The turnovers helped us get more possessions,” Petrino said. “It was a game of ‘We don’t have a lot of possessions here, offense, we’ve got to take advantage of every single one of them.’”
Redshirt senior linebacker Dimitri Moore recovered the first fumble and forced the second one. The Vanderbilt transfer has battled injuries this season, but stepped up and made huge plays.
“That was huge for him to come back and move from the MIKE to the SAM spot,” Petrino said. “He had a really good week of practice. He said it's the best he’s felt in a long time.”
The Bears travel to Carbondale, Illinois to face the Southern Illinois Salukis on Saturday, Nov. 6.
Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_
Subscribe to The Standard's free weekly newsletter here.