11.27.21 Football File

Xavier Lane is surrounded by teammates to cheer him on and continue the celebration of the first touchdown of the game. The Bears beat Indiana State 37-7 on Oct. 16 during Homecoming week.

The Missouri State football team lost a heartbreaker to the University of Tennessee at Martin 32-31 in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs Saturday afternoon.

“It was definitely an emotional locker room,” senior quarterback Jason Shelley said. “We felt like we gave the game away.”

This was a historic season for the Bears. They hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1990, Shelley broke the single-season program passing record and won the Missouri Valley Football Conference offensive player of the year. Junior receiver Tyrone Scott broke the single-season program records for receiving yards and receptions.

“I came here and heard about the history of the school,” Shelley said. “I came here and I wanted to make a change. That's something that I had goals for. Come here and put the team on the map and get some life in Springfield. I feel like we’ve done a good job and we’ve got to carry on to next year.”

For as much talent that’s returning for the Bears, the same amount of talent is leaving.

Seniors Titus Wall, Tyler Lovelace, Xavier Lane, Eric Johnson and others played their last games in a Missouri State uniform.

“They mean a lot because of how much they helped in making the transition and how positive they were,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “When we first got the job we talked about not saying a word about the past, just looking forward. They led and had great attitudes and changed a lot. I respect them a lot.”

The Game

There were three areas where the Bears struggled: running the ball, turnovers and allowing big plays.

The Bears tallied a season-high six turnovers in the loss. Shelley threw three interceptions, fumbled once and there were two fumbles on special teams.

“When you get some tipped ball interceptions, that's going to happen,” Petrino said. “We had one real bad (interception) where we can’t make that throw.”

Thirteen of the Skyhawks' 32 points came off of turnovers, allowing for short drives and easy scores. 

MSU had battled back from high-turnover games before, but to overcome six turnovers is a lot to ask — even for a team that’s used to recovering and winning the game.

Another thing that plagued the Bear offense was the inability to run the ball effectively.

MSU finished the game with 119 yards rushing on four yards per carry with Shelley providing 93 of those.

Shelley was the only Bear who found any type of success on the ground. The other three Bears who carried the ball totaled 17 carries for 26 yards, an average of 1.5 yards per carry. 

“(UTM) was moving their front a lot and we didn’t block them real well,” Petrino said. “We had a hard time getting positive yards on first down and that hurt us and led to some third and longs.”

The Bears also allowed a lot of big plays in the passing game.

MSU allowed six passing plays of 25 yards or more and, four of those being over 30 yards.

UTM consistently attacked single coverage from MSU defensive backs and attacked the seams when the coverage presented itself.

The Skyhawks are traditionally a run-first team. But even with a backup quarterback, they were still able to create big plays through the air against the Bear defense.

Missouri State finishes the season with an 8-4 record.


Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_

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