Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Homecoming Heroics Lead Bears to Dominant Performance

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State got a stellar defensive performance, some critical special teams plays and got the offense rolling when it counted as part of a 37-7 homecoming win here Saturday over visiting Indiana State.The Bears (4-2, 3-1 MVFC) held Indiana State to just 1-for-11 on third down and surrendered just one score late in the fourth quarter to secure their largest margin of victory since 2018. MSU forced the visitors into seven punts in their first nine possessions, in addition to a fourth-down stop and the end of the first half.

On the offensive side, coach Bobby Petrino‘s squad racked up 21 first downs and 442 total yards in an efficient performance that featured scoring drives in six-of-seven possessions during a critical juncture of the game.

Special teams helped spark the Bears late in the first half as Missouri State tallied three touchdowns in the final two minutes, 19 seconds of the second quarter to take a 24-0 lead into the intermission.

Jose Pizano’s 38-yard field goal in the first quarter gave the home side an early 3-0 advantage, but the score stayed there until Jason Shelley was able to engineer a 68-yard scoring drive late in the second quarter to give the Bears some breathing room. A 45-yard pass to Xavier Lane on a third-and-four play made it a 10-0 game at the 2:19 mark.

On the ensuing kickoff, Missouri State freshman Steven Ward forced a J.J. Henderson fumble, which Trae Thompson recovered at the ISU 24. Three plays later, Shelley got a key block from Siale Suliafu around the right side and scored from three yards out to make it 17-0 with 1:18 to go in the half.

Ward forced another fumble on the next kickoff moments later, which the Bears recovered at the Sycamores 20. Shelley connected with Tyrone Scott two plays later on a 26-yard TD strike to make it a 24-0 game at the half.

Shelley became the first Missouri State quarterback to rack up 200 passing yards in his first six career games as he finished 11-for-21 for 225 yards, no interceptions and three touchdowns. Scott was the Bears’ top receiver with 3 catches for 106 yards and a pair of scores.

“I’m really proud of our players after the disappointment last week (at Youngstown State),” said Petrino. “Our leadership took charge and made sure everyone was into it from the start. It was really a team effort.”

The Bears controlled the clock in the second half but kept a heavy foot on the accelerator to keep the Sycamores at bay. Shelley and Scott connected on another touchdown pass early in the third quarter – a 59-yarder – that made it 31-0. Then, Pizano extended the lead with field goals of 33 and 35 yards, both of which concluded long drives and ultimately made it a 37-0 game late in the contest.

With Missouri State squeezing 64 players onto the participation sheet, the Sycamores broke up the shutout with just over six minutes left in the game on a 19-yard pass from Anthony Thompson to Dante Hendrix to cap a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive for the visitors.

Hendrix notched a game-high 121 yards on 10 catches for Indiana State (3-4, 1-3 MVFC), while Peterson Kerlegrand carried 16 times for 67 yards as the game’s top rusher. Thompson threw for 177 yards on 18 completions.

Missouri State’s winning effort pushed the Bears to 3-0 at home this season while capturing the club’s first homecoming win since 2017, which was also against Indiana State.

Tylar Wiltz paced the Bears defense with 9 total tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Kyriq McDonald brought down 5 ball carriers and broke up a pair of passes, while P.J. Hall had MSU’s only interception of the contest.

The Bears posted their fifth straight game with 31 or more points, marking the first time that has happened since 2010.

Missouri State will travel to North Dakota State (6-0, 3-0 MVFC) next week for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at the FargoDome before returning to Plaster Stadium on Sept. 30 for a 2 p.m. start against North Dakota.

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