Bears Ride Record-Setting Defensive Effort to 49-7 Victory Over Indiana State
Nov. 2, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Keyed by a dominant defensive performance that included a school-record three interception returns for touchdowns, Missouri State cruised to its third-straight victory with a decisive 49-7 decision over Indiana State Saturday afternoon in Missouri Valley Football Conference action at Plaster Field.
Missouri State, which improved to 4-6 overall and 4-2 in MVFC play, picked off four passes in a game for the first time since 2008, three of which helped turn a seven-point halftime advantage into a 42-7 lead as part of a 28-point third-quarter outburst.
Leading 21-7 after a three-yard Harris run to open the second half, the Bears' defense came through with three critical plays to eliminate any doubt about the outcome of the contest. Redshirt freshman Rique Bentley picked off a Mike Perish pass at the MSU 47 and returned it 53 yards for his second interception return for a touchdown in nine career games to stretch the margin to 21 points with 7:18 to play in the third.
Fellow newcomer Jeremy Springer followed suit less than two minutes later, bringing back another interception 51 yards to make it a 35-7 contest. Finally, Sybhrian Berry completed the pick-six trifecta for the Bears, returning a third Perish pass 73 yards to pay dirt with just three seconds left in the period.
Berry's return helped the Bears eclipse the Missouri State single-game record for interceptions returned for touchdowns (3), while Springer's second pick of the day and 34-yard return late in the fourth quarter added to the Bears' record-day for interception return yardage (211).
MSU's third-quarter scoring bonanza highlighted a banner day for the Bears' defense, which held ISU to 210 yards of total offense. Perish, who entered the game with a MVFC-best average of 246.8 passing yards per outing, completed just 14-of-34 passes for 95 yards, while the Sycamore running game was limited to 115 yards on 30 carries.
The Bears' 42-point win marked their largest margin of victory since a 63-7 defeat of Indiana State on Oct. 27, 2007, while the 49-point total represented their best single-game output since a 51-point showing against Southern Illinois on Oct. 30, 2010.
Springer's two interception returns for a total of 85 yards led the MSU defensive effort, while junior All-American Caleb Schaffitzel recorded a game-high 14 tackles. Senior linebacker Nick Canavan logged a big day as well, making eight stops, including two for losses, to go along with a sack and a pass broken up for the Bears.
In a preview of what would follow, Missouri State turned in a dominant performance in the opening half, holding Indiana State to 99 yards of total offense and four first downs. Canavan set the tone of the first play from scrimmage, sacking Perish for a five-yard loss. MSU would limit ISU to eight rushing yards in the first quarter, while holding Perish to 61 yards through the air in the first half.
The Bears' offense controlled the game early, using a ground attack that rolled up 78 rushing yards and maintained possession of the ball for nearly 10 minutes in the opening period. MSU, which converted 5-of-6 third-down attempts in the first period, engineered a 12-play, 61-yard drive to put the first points of the afternoon on the board, as Mikael Cooper-Falls carried it in from three yards out on the first play of the second quarter for a 7-0 Bears lead.
After another stop by the Bears' defense on ISU's ensuing drive, the Sycamore defense came up with its biggest play of the half to momentarily turn the momentum in favor of the visitors. On 3rd and 7 at the MSU 13, Donovan Layne stepped in front of an Ashton Glaser pass and returned the ball 20 yards for a touchdown to even the score with just over 11 minutes left on the clock.
Missouri State would go three-and-out on its next two possessions, before a partially-blocked punt by Zac Hoover set up the Bears near midfield at the four-minute mark. The Bears needed just four plays to capitalize, as Harris connected with Matt Swan for 19 yards, then hit Eric Christophel for a 28-yard scoring strike to put MSU back in front, 14-7.
Thanks to a 46-yard bust by Ryan Heaston, the Bears extended their lead to 14 points on their first drive of the second half. Two plays after Heaston's long run handed MSU a 1st and goal at the ISU 8, Harris found the end zone on a three-yard scoring run - his eighth rushing touchdown of the season - to make it a 21-7 game.
The Bears' defense took over from there, posting its third second-half shutout in five home games this season, while out-gaining the ISU offense (211 to 210) thanks to its record-setting interception return performance.
On the offensive side of the ball, Heaston rushed 14 times for 89 yards to lead a Missouri State rushing attack that finished with 210 yards on 51 carries. Harris came off the bench to complete 3-of-4 passes for 52 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown pass to Christophel, while also rushing seven times for 25 yards and a score of his own.
MSU hits the road for the final time in 2013 next Saturday (Nov. 9), when it travels to Carbondale, Ill., for a 2 p.m. MVFC contest against Southern Illinois at Saluki Stadium.