Football Bears Fall 51-21 to No. 4 NDSU
Oct. 15, 2011
FARGO, N.D. -- The Missouri State Bears surrendered two lost fumbles and a long kickoff return in the first five minutes of the third quarter to set up 17 North Dakota State points as the fourth-ranked Bison blew open a tight contest and rolled to a 51-21 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory over the Bears before 18,029 fans Saturday evening in Fargo, N.D.
NDSU's Marcus Williams took the second-half kickoff 90 yards down the right sideline to score. After the ensuing kickoff, Missouri State fumbled on its own 17 on its first play from scrimmage to set up a short field for a Bison field goal. The Bears ' lost the handle on the return of the next kickoff and NDSU stacked on another TD after a drive of just 28 yards for a 41-14 bulge by the mid-point of the third period.
The Bears dented the nation's top-ranked scoring defense for three touchdowns but had no answer for the Bison attack as NDSU scored six touchdowns and three field goals on its first nine possessions before the Bears stopped NDSU and forced the first Bison punt with four minutes left in the game. The win moved NDSU to 6-0 (3-0 MVFC) for the season while the Bears slipped to 0-7 (0-4 MVFC).
After the 3-0 defensive struggle the Bears won in Springfield in last year's regular-season finale before NDSU went on to the 2010 NCAA FCS quarterfinals, Saturday's game started like an offensive highlight film. The teams combined for five straight scoring possessions with four early lead changes in the game, but NDSU managed points on all four of its first half possessions for a 24-14 halftime advantage.
Bison sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen was unstoppable early, hitting a perfect 15-of-15 passing the first half to threaten the NCAA FCS record of 20 straight completions to start a game, a mark set by Austin Moherman of MSU in 2000 at Indiana State.
Jensen found senior wide receiver Warren Holloway six times for 109 yards in the first half as Holloway, among NDSU's all-time top five in receptions and receiving yards, hauled in scoring aerials of 31 and 47 yards. Each score erased a Bears' lead and RB D.J. McNorton rambled in from the 20 two minutes before halftime to push the Bison lead to 10.
For their part, the Bears had two impressive drives to grab the lead twice in the opening 30 minutes. Bears' sophomore QB Trevor Wooden nailed WR Ian Starnes for 29 yards to cap an 84-yard drive that gave MSU a 7-3 edge. The Bears tallied on a 69-yard drive the next time they had the ball with Wooden finishing the job on a 19-yard throw to RB Chris Douglas at the start of the second period as MSU moved in front 14-10. The Bears moved 50 yards just before halftime and K Austin Witmer had the length on a bid for a career-best 47-yard field goal on the last play of the period but the kick was wide.
The Bears' third TD came after NDSU's explosion to start the third period as Wooden hooked up with Starnes twice in a 78-yard drive that Wooden capped with a one-yard scoring plunge with 2:22 left in the quarter. After the third field goal of the game by NDSU's Ryan Jastram, another lost fumble by the Bears on their own nine set up the final Bison TD.
Jensen and Wooden put on an aerial duel as the Bison signal-caller hit 19-of-23 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns while the Bears' sophomore was 18-of-25 for 222 yards and two scores. Starnes finished as the Bears' top receiver with five catches for 79 yards and his first MSU career TD. Tight end Matt Thayer had four receptions for 38 yards for MSU and RB Vernon Scott gained 66 yards on 18 carries to lead the ground game.
MSU became only the second team to top 10 points against North Dakota State this season. Only Big Ten Conference Minnesota scored more against NDSU in a 37-24 loss to the Bison in September. The Bears ' offense produced 363 yards in the contest while NDSU finished with 428 yards.
The Bears stay on the road next week for an MVFC contest at Western Illinois. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. at Macomb's Hansen Field.