Football Bears Earn First Win, 31-17, Over Western Illinois
Oct. 22, 2011
MACOMB, Ill. – Four second-half take-aways propelled Missouri State (1-7, 1-4) to a 31-17 win over Western Illinois here Saturday in Missouri Valley Football Conference play. The win snapped an eight-game Hanson Field winning streak by the Leathernecks and secured MSU's first win of 2011.
The final nail in the coffin came with 2:15 to play when senior Jimmie Strong halted a threatening WIU drive with a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown, the longest in Bears' history. The pick six came on the heels of a 54-yard pass completion to Charles Chestnut that set the home club up at the MSU 9 for the potential game-tying score.
MSU closed out the game with a fumble recovery on WIU's fourth turnover of the final period.
Trevor Wooden completed 8-of-16 passes for 190 yards for the Bears who won on the road for the first time in 13 tries and also posted a game-high 82 rushing yards. Jermaine Saffold caught four passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, coming just two yards shy of becoming MSU's all-time receiving yards leader.
The Leathernecks got 269 passing yards by Josh Hudson who was 20-for-34 with a pair of interceptions. Terriun Crump had seven receptions for 67 yards to lead WIU, while Kevin Palermo posted a game-high 14 tackles.
With 7:56 to go in the third, the Bears extended their 14-10 halftime lead on a 19-yard field goal by Austin Witmer to overcome a pair of first-half misses by the sophomore. The score was set up by a 57-yard pass from Wooden to Saffold to the WIU two-yard line just three players earlier. The Bears could not punch it into the end zone, but settled for the chip-shot FG to go up by seven.
The lead didn't last long as WIU got 33 yards on the ensuing kickoff to its own 38. Six plays later, Josh Hudson found Larry Patterson wide open on the far sideline for Patterson's second catch of the season. He bolted to the end zone for his second score of the night to tie the game 17-17 after the Pat Smith PAT with 5:21 on the clock.
Feeling the opportunity for their first victory of the year, the Bears used the momentum of a 50-yard completion from Wooden to Saffold to set up the go-ahead score on the ensuing drive. The key play was a third-and-two at the WIU 27 when Stephen Johnston took the hand off and completed a short pass to quarterback to Wooden who was tackled shy of the first down. However, Johnston was hit late, forcing a roughing the passer flag from the officials and a Bears' first down. WIU's bench protested the call and ultimately drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag to move the ball to the WIU 7. The Bears' third-and-goal play from the 10 was a pass intended for Ian Starnes in the end zone, but WIU was whistled for pass interference to set up another automatic first down at the two. Two plays later Johnston punched it in to put the Bears up 24-17 with 55 seconds left in the third.
The score held until late in the fourth quarter with five combined punts and two WIU turnovers – an interception by Mike Crutcher and fumble recovery by Andrew Beisel – but neither team could threaten. With 2:50 to go, Josh Hudson found Chestnut for 54 yards to the MSU 20. On the next play, Hudson was picked off by Strong who returned it 91 yards for the exclamation mark score to put MSU up 31-17.
The game started with some fireworks as Western Illinois' Larry Patterson returned the opening kick 90 yards to paydirt to give the Leathernecks an early 7-0 lead 12 seconds into the game. However, the Bears retaliated quickly with a 74-yard scoring drive of their own. Trevor Wooden carried four times for 61 yards on the nine-play possession and capped the series with a 14-yard touchdown run to tie the contest, 7-7.
The Bears forced the Leathernecks to punt after three plays on their next possession and took over on the MSU 38. MSU drove all the way to the WIU three-yard line before settling for a 21-yard field goal attempt by Austin Witmer, which missed wide left to keep the game knotted, 7-7.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Western followed suit by driving from their own 20 to the MSU 11 before a missed 34-yard field goal by Pat Smith maintained the tie. The miss spoiled a 31-yard pass completion from Hudson to Justin Morgan early in the 17-play drive and negated a fourth-and-one conversion at the Bears' 12 that put WIU on the doorstep of a go-ahead score.
Taking over on their own 20 with 10:12 left in the second, the Bears missed another scoring opportunity. A 36-yard completion from Wooden to Matt Thayer on the first play moved the ball to the WIU 44. The Bears continued the drive to the 36, but could not convert another first down. Witmer came on for a 42-yard field goal try and missed it wide left with 7:28 left in the opening half.
On the very next play, Hudson was sacked by Mikel Ruder, forcing the ball loose and recovered by Nate Davis at the Western 20-yard line. MSU wasted little time taking the lead as Wooden hit Saffold in stride at the three-yard line, and he fell across the goal line for the score. Witmer's PAT made it 14-7 Bears with 7:19 to play.
The teams exchanged punts from there, and WIU took over on its own 14 with 3:33 to play in the second. Fourteen plays later, the Leathernecks converted a 21-yard field goal as time expired when Smith split the uprights to cap the 82-yard drive and make it a 14-10 game at the intermission.
The Bears return to Plaster Field next Saturday to face South Dakota State at 2 p.m. on Homecoming. Tickets for the game are available by calling (417) 836-7678 or visiting www.MissouriStateTix.com.