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Bears Push No. 22 Oklahoma State to Final Horn in Opener

STILLWATER, Okla. – A furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt by Missouri State fell just short here Saturday as the Bears fell, 23-16, at No. 22-ranked Oklahoma State in the season opener for both teams.


The Bears (0-1) trailed 20-3 at the intermission, but outgained the Cowboys, 214-120, in the second half and forced the home team to punt in six of its eight second-half possessions. The Bears also snagged a key fumble recovery in the third quarter and allowed just three first downs in the final 30 minutes.


“We battled really hard and fought them until the end,” said Bears head coach Bobby Petrino. “We were in a position to win the game at the end and took a shot. I thought our players responded the right way to falling behind early.”


The Bears tallied a pair of Jose Pizano field goals in the third quarter to draw within 23-9. That score held until a muffed MSU punt return early in the fourth set the Cowboys up at Bears 11. OSU pushed it to the 8-yard line from there, but a pair of delay-of-game penalties and a replay-aided incompletion in the end zone forced the Cowboys and kicker Alex Hale into a 35-yard field goal try, which Hale converted to make it 23-9.


But that was all the points Oklahoma State would manufacture, while the Bears were just getting started. With 7:12 left in regulation, Missouri State took over at its own 16 and used a 25-yard completion to Damoriea Vick on third-and-two to open the door. The next two plays were Jason Shelley strikes to Xavier Lane for 21 and 7 yards, respectively to set MSU up at the 23. Later in the drive, Shelley connected with Jordan Murray on third-and-seven to the eight-yard line just before the Utah State transfer threw a strike to Tyrone Scott for a touchdown.


Shelley was 6-for-8 on the drive, which covered 84 yards on 11 plays and chewed up 4 minutes, 6 seconds on the clock to make it 23-16 with 3:06 to go.


On the ensuing kickoff, Pizano floated the kickoff over the OSU front line, which was expecting an onside kick. With no returners in the area, Pizano himself jumped on the ball at the Oklahoma State 16-yard line, and the Bears had everything going their way as the game entered crunch time.


Unfortunately, MSU was unable to get a foot hold on the ensuing drive and turned it over on downs after three straight incompletions with 1:59 to play. But the game was far from over with the Bears defense stepping up to the challenge.


From its own 19, Oklahoma State and understudy quarterback Shane Illingsworth tried to reach the first down markers, but the Bears’ defense held strong again, bending with a short rush on first down before forcing back-to-back incompletions forced the Cowboys to punt for the seventh time in the game.


Taking over at his 30 with 94 seconds to work with, Shelley and Missouri State used a pair of short rushes before a 14-yard strike to Murray on third-and-three got the Bears to the 42. Later, a 23-yard pass to Scott on third-and-15 to the OSU 26 gave Petrino’s squad another opportunity to capture the upset. But with time running inside 30 seconds, the Bears were unable to finish the task. Shelley spiked the ball to stop the clock before an incomplete pass into the end zone stopped the clock with 15 ticks remaining. OSU then came after Shelley and garnered back-to-back sacks to end the contest.


For the night, Oklahoma State out-gained the Bears by a narrow 369-336 margin while MSU racked up 23 first downs to the Cowboys 16.


In his debut, Shelley overcame a slow start by going 23-for-44 through the air for 235 yards with Xavier Lane hauling in eight receptions for a team-high 78 yards.


Oklahoma State (1-0) got 315 passing yards from Illingsworth, with top target Tay Marting accounting for 107 receiving yards on six catches.


“They are a really good football team,” Petrino said of Oklahoma State. “We wanted to come out here and compete, and give everything we had for four quarters and I feel like they certainly did that. We’re definitely disappointed because we did have some shots at it, and not only late in the game but in the first half. That hurt us just as much as anything when we were down there in the scoring (red) zone twice and came away with three points.”


Missouri State’s night was not as eventful in the early going as Oklahoma State wasted no time taking the early advantage. Illingsworth marched the Cowboys 72 yards on nine plays for the game’s first score. Facing a second-and-goal from the MSU 5, the OSU signal caller spotted Martin in the left corner of the end zone for the score just over five minutes into the contest. The drive, which took just over three minutes, ended with a missed extra point try to make it a 6-0 game.


The Bears squandered a scoring chance just before the end of the opening quarter, driving as deep as the OSU 24 before a sack and the visitors’ second delay of game penalty of the quarter pushed MSU back to the 34. Pizano’s 51-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked, keeping the Bears off the board.


On the ensuing series, Illingsworth threaded a 22-yard completion to Brennan Presley and a 28-yard pass to Rashod Owens through the Bears defense to get the Cowboys within striking range again. A difficult pass interference call set OSU up at the Bears 1-yard line before Jaylen Martin punched it in three plays later to cap the 66-yard drive and make it a 13-0 game.


On the Missouri State’s very next play, from the Bears 29, Shelley took his eye off the snap for a split second and a fumble ensued. The Cowboys jumped on the loose ball at the 25 and made the Bears pay for the mishap two plays later with a nine-yard TD rush from LD Brown to make it 20-0.


But that’s all the scoring the Cowboys would do until the fourth quarter as Missouri State began to chip away.


Later in the second quarter, the Bears defense stood tall with key third-down and fourth-down stops in the red zone. The fourth-down stop, a pass break-up by Kyriq McDonald, gave the visitors the ball at their own 36 with the turnover on downs.


Missouri State marched the ball down to the OSU 2-yard line before ultimately settling for a 30-yard field goal by Pizano with 4:23 to go in the half. The drive included a key 22-yard rush by Shelley on a second-down play to the OSU 20, and a Cowboys facemasking penalty pushed the ball to the 10. From there, Shelley’s next play was an eight-yard completion to Damoriea Vick who took the ball to the two. However, a negative rush and a personal foul put MSU into a field goal situation on fourth down.


Montrae Braswell intercepted a long pass by Illingsworth on the Cowboys final possession of the opening half, the fourth of his MSU career, which kept it a 20-3 game at the half.


In the second half, Missouri State capitalized on its second takeaway of the game when a Cowboys fumble turned into three more MSU points with 7:27 left in the third. A forced fumble by Ferrin Manuleleua was recovered by Tylar Wiltz at the Oklahoma State 43 to set up a short field for the Bears. Six plays later, Pizano’s second field goal of the game, a career-long 48-yarder, split the uprights to make it a 20-6 game.


With 1:15 left in the third, Pizano’s third field goal of the game made it 20-9 as Missouri State’s defense once again gave the offense good field position at the Bears 39 and ultimately led to more MSU points. A clutch 19-yard pass from Shelley to Lane set Missouri State up first and goal at the OSU six. On the next play, Myron Mason swept around the right side for what appeared to be a touchdown. However, a holding penalty negated the gain and pushed the Bears to the 16. After a pair of Shelley incompletions, Pizano came on for a 33-yarder.


It marked the second time in Pizano’s MSU tenure he hit three field goals in a game.


Missouri State’s 23 points allowed matched the fewest the Bears had ever given up against an FBS opponent. The Bears dropped a 17-14 decision at Tulsa in 1992 and then lost a 23-20 game at Oklahoma State in overtime in 1996.


Bears punter Grant Burkett averaged 49.0 yards on six punts with three 50-yarders and three downed inside the 20.


MSU’s defense was paced by McDonald’s 10 tackles, including 6 solo stops and a forced fumble.


The Bears will now turn their attention to a meeting against regional rival Central Arkansas next week at Plaster Stadium in Springfield. Missouri State’s home opener on Sept. 11 will kick off at 7 p.m. (Central) with tickets available now at or at the Old Missouri Bank Box Office, (417) 836-7678, during regular box office hours.

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