UNI Claims 17-10 Victory to Stop Bears' Win Streak
Nov. 16, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - UNI used a shutdown performance from its defense and a 167-yard rushing effort from David Johnson to pull out a 17-10 victory over Missouri State Saturday afternoon at Plaster Field, snapping the Bears' four-game win streak.
After falling behind on an early Missouri State field goal, the visiting Panthers reeled off 17 unanswered points to seize control of the contest, forcing a season-high five turnovers from the Bears.
Johnson rushed for touchdowns on back-to-back first-quarter possessions, including a one-yard run following a fumble deep in MSU territory and a 21-yard scamper at the 4:05 mark, giving UNI all the offense it would need to improve to 6-5 on the year an 2-5 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
UNI limited the Bears to 320 yards of total offense and withstood a late rally after Missouri State sliced its deficit to seven points on an eight-yard Ryan Heaston touchdown run with just under five minutes to play. MSU's defense came up with a stop on the Panthers' ensuing drive to regain possession of the ball, but Tate Omli picked off Ashton Glaser's fourth-down pass at the MSU 44 to effectively end the Bears' comeback bid.
In addition to Johnson's big day, junior quarterback Brion Carnes completed 14-of-21 passes for 120 yards and rushed for 41 yards in just his second start of the season, and Kevin Vereen led all receivers with six catches for 66 yards.
Despite coming up on the short end, the Bears' defense turned in another banner day to keep Missouri State's hopes for a fifth-consecutive victory alive. MSU held the Panthers to 332 total yards and just 15 first downs, keeping UNI out of the end zone over the final 48:55 of the contest. Junior linebacker Andrew Beisel led the defense with a Bears' season and career-high 16 tackles, while Caleb Schaffitzel and Nick Canavan each recorded 15 stops.
Schaffitzel, an All-American candidate, topped the 100-tackle mark for the second straight year, closing out his junior campaign with 110 tackles, surpassing his breakthrough sophomore season total (109) by one stop.
The difference in the contest would prove to be the Bears' inability to maintain drives on the offensive side of the ball, as the Panthers scooped up all three MSU fumbles to go along with a pair of interceptions.
Missouri State was the sharper team in the early stages, however, breaking from the lockerroom with a 55-yard scoring drive that ended with a 37-yard Austin Witmer field goal 2:50 into the contest. Cooper-Falls carried the load for the Bears, ripping off a 29-yard run on the game's first play from scrimmage and totaling 50 rushing yards on four carries on the drive.
But the Panthers' defense came up with its first turnover deep in Bears' territory to swing the momentum, as Brett McMackin covered a Heaston fumble at the MSU 2. Two plays later, Johnson carried the ball into the end zone from one yard out to put the visitors in front, 7-3.
Johnson came through with another big run on UNI's next possession, covering the final 21 yards of a 64-yard drive for his second score of the day at the 4:05 mark. Carnes registered a pair of critical blows leading up to Johnson's run, hitting Vereen for a 16-yard completion on a 3rd and 7 at the UNI 39, before connecting with Deiondre' Hall for a 20-yard strike to move the ball to the Bears' 23.
McMackin posted another big play to stop a Bears' drive early in the second period, sacking and stripping MSU quarterback Ashton Glaser near midfield on a 3rd-and-20 play. Jordan Gacke fell on the loose ball, but the Bears defense returned serve by forcing a UNI fumble three plays later.
The Panthers appeared poised to add to their lead midway through the quarter, using 11 plays to march 75 yards to the MSU 5 following a 68-yard punt by MSU's Chris Sullens. But Brandon Cheaton stepped in front of a Carnes pass in the end zone to thwart the scoring threat.
MSU would struggle to move the ball throughout the second period, totaling just 32 yards of offense in the quarter and only 82 yards after their opening drive of the game. The Bears would not run a second-quarter play in UNI territory until the final minute of the half, which ended with a Witmer 62-yard field goal try was off target.
UNI's defensive dominance continued in the second half, as the Panthers held MSU to just six first downs and Tyler Sievertson booted a 36-yard field goal with 10:20 to play, before Glaser engineered a late nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive. The senior completed a 10-yard pass to Gannon Sinclair and hit Julian Burton for 16 yards, then handed turned to Heaston to carry the load down the stretch. The sophomore running back carried the ball four straight times to account for the final 37 yards of the drive, and his eight-yard scoring run capped the drive and pulled the Bears to within 17-10 at the 4:57 mark.
MSU forced UNI to punt to generate one last shot at evening the score, taking over at its own 12 yard-line with just over three minutes left on the clock. Glaser connected with Dorian Buford for a 17-yard gain, then found Heaston over the middle for six more to move the ball to the 35. But that would be as far as the Bears would advance, as an incompletion and another Heaston reception (for no gain) preceded Omli's key 27-yard interception return.
Johnson salted the game away for the Panthers, carrying three more times for 10 yards to allow UNI to pick up a first down and run out the clock.
MSU, which ended its season at 5-3 in MVFC play and 5-7 overall, got a lift from Mikael Cooper-Falls, who rushed for 73 yards on 16 carries. Burton, who grabbed four receptions for 58 yards, finished his junior year with 52 receptions, good for ninth on the Bears' single-season list. Buford, meanwhile, became the 11th Bear to eclipse the 100-reception plateau for his Missouri State career, making three catches to run his total to 102, the ninth-best total for a MSU receiver.