Bears' Defense Steps Up in 24-14 Win over UT Martin
SPRINGFIELD -- Missouri State's defense stepped up its pressure on visiting Tennessee-Martin in the second half here Saturday afternoon, as the Bears overcame three turnovers to secure a 24-14 win over the Skyhawks.
It was the fewest points allowed by Missouri State's defense in 15 games as the Bears improved to 1-1 on the season.
After the Bears built a 17-7 halftime lead, UT Martin drove 44 yards to the Missouri State 16 on its opening possession of the third quarter only to miss a 33-yard field goal. The Bears responded by driving 80 yards on 12 plays for their third touchdown of the afternoon on a nine-yard carry by freshman Mikael Cooper Falls to make it 24-7.
The Skyhawks battled 78 yards on 13 plays on their next possession for the final score of the game, a one-yard touchdown run by Tevin Barksdale, to make it 24-14. But, the Bears forced UTM into onother missed field goal, their third of the game, in the fourth quarter and later got a a fourth-down stop on the Missouri State 25 with 4:14 to play in the game.
The Skyhawks outgained the Bears 322-288, but Missouri State's ground attack produced 185 yards on 45 carries, including a team-besrt 54 yards by Miguel Warren, to control the clock. With the ground success, the Bears threw only 16 times on the afternoon, as Cody Kirby completed nine attempts for 103 yards -- and just 20 yards in the second half -- with one interception.
UTM had 127 rushing yards on 37 carries, but quarterback Cade Thompson completed 21-of-34 passes for 195 yards. However, Thompson did not have a completion longer than 18 yards.
The Bears had several stars on defense, including linebackers Adam Beauchamp, Antoine Wilkinson, and Michael Keck. Beauchamp had a team-high 10 tackles, while Wilkinson posted nine stops. Keck had eight total tackles, five solos, and two tackles for loss.
In the first half, the Bears fumbled on the first play of the game, but bounced back on a 23-yard field goal by Matt Hottelman to break up a scoreless game at the 6:44 mark of the opening quarter. Later in the first period, Jonathan Davis scored his second touchdown in as many games on a five-yard trot to cap a five-play, 35-yard drive.
UT Martin broke up the shutout early in the second quarter as it used a solid ground series, led by Miguel Barnes, to march 72 yards on 11 plays before Brandyn Young scored from five yards out to make it a 10-7 game.
The Bears scored the final play of the half, going 60 yards on six plays in 1:55, as Kirby kept it from 11 yards out for his 18th career rushing touchdown to extend Missouri State's lead to 17-7.
Kirby finished the first half 6-for-11 through the air for 83 yards, including three catches for 38 yards by freshman Adrian Williams. Early in the second quarter, Clay Harbor extended his consecutive games reception streak to 24 and finished with 3 receptions for 30 yards.
The Bears continue a three-game home stand next Saturday at 3 p.m. when they welcome Murray State to Plaster Field. Tickets for the game are available by calling (417) 836-7678.