Harris, Hoover Pace Offense in MSU Spring Game
April 26, 2014
SPRINGFEIELD – On a day when big plays were the big attraction, it was the combination of quarterback Kierra Harris and sophomore receiver Zac Hoover that stole the show. The Missouri State tandem connected 6 times for 156 yards to lead the first-team to a decisive 27-0 victory in the Bears’ annual Maroon and White spring game Saturday at JFK Stadium at Parkview High School.
Hoover was not part of the two offensive touchdowns the first unit produced, but he was instrumental in setting up the first. In the opening quarter, Harris hit Hoover for a 31-yard gain to 38-yard line. Four plays later, the senior quarterback connected with tight end Gannon Sinclair over the middle for a 14-yard scoring pass for the first points of the game.
On the next series, running back Cedric Miller carried three times to get the home side out of the shadows of its own goal post. A 12-yard completion to Eric Christophel took the ball to the 39-yard line, and then after a sack by Dylan Cole, Harris bounced back with a thrilling 67-yard touchdown strike to senior Julian Burton that made it 14-0.
The Bears tacked on a pair of field goals after the second-team defense held Alex Lawson, Brodie Lambert and the MSU second-teamers in check for two straight series late in the second quarter. First, Harris and Hoover connected on a 49-yard passing play that took the Bears to the 21-yard line. The drive stalled three plays later, but Marcelo Bonani booted through a 36-yard field goal that made it 17-0 with 1:43 left in the first half.
After a quick three-and-out stop by the second-team defense, Harris hit Hoover for another 49-yard strike to the 29-yard line. Burton caught two passes, and Phoenix Johnson carried three times to get the first-teamers to the 7-yard line with time running out, and Shelby Harris came through with a 24-yard field goal to make it 20-0 at the intermission.
“That’s a head coach’s dilemma throughout the course of the spring," said head coach Terry Allen. "You want to see them make plays offensively, but you also want to see them make plays defensively. I thought in the second half, the defense did a better job as far as not giving up big plays and creating turnovers.”
What the second half lacked in scoring, it made up for in big plays, including a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Rique Bentley off a deflected Lambert pass.
The first-team defense also came up with a turnover in the fourth quarter. After Harris threw a 14-yard strike to Hoover to the 11-yard line, Cole jarred the ball loose, and John Edwards picked it up for the defensive side.
Seven different receivers finished with multiple receptions on the afternoon, including 4 grabs for 92 yards for Burton. Harris completed 15-of-20 passes overall and a pair of TD strikes for his 304-yard effort. Lambert took snaps for both sides and finished 7-for-16 overall for 44 yards with an interception, while Lawson was 2-for-8 for 20 yards.
The aerial display minimized the effective rushing effort shown by both squads. Josh Mattes carried 10 times for a game-high 52 yards to lead the second-stringers, while Phoenix Johnson finished with 49 yards on 11 attempts, all with the first unit. The teams combined for 192 ground yards on 59 carries for a 3.3 average per attempt.
Andrew Beisel led the first-team defense with 10 total stops, including 1.5 for loss and a sack. Cole and Christian Hoffmann tacked on 9 stops apiece with Cole registering 3 tackles for loss and the forced fumble. Redshirt freshman linebacker Erik Furmanek led the second-team defense with a game-high 11 tackles, a sack and a pass break-up. Classmate Kurran Blamey added 5 tackles.
The spring game officially wrapped up the 15-practice spring season for the Bears who will open fall camp in early August to prepare for their Aug. 28 season opener at Northwestern State.
“I thought we got a lot of things accomplished (this spring)," said Allen. "We’re a little bit of a work in progress because we had four pretty significant players not participate. We gave up some plays defensively in the secondary that, with Schaffitzel back there, they probably wouldn’t get away with.”
The Bears will play their first of five home games at the newly-renovated Plaster Sports Complex with a visit from first-time foe North Dakota on Sept. 13. Season ticket information is available now by calling (417) 836-8899 or visiting MissouriStateBears.com for more information.