Missouri State Outruns Racers in the Rain, 35-10; Improves to 2-1
SPRINGFIELD -- Behind a pair of defensive touchdowns and 392 yards of total offense, Missouri State turned back Murray State, 35-10, here Saturday in the Bears' final non-conference game of the season.
Playing in wet conditions most of the day, Missouri State overcame an early 3-0 deficit to roll off 35 unanswered points and improve to 2-1 on the season.
Murray State took the early advantage on a 22-yard field goal by Kienan Cullen that bounced off the left upright and through on the game's opening drive. The drive was Murray State's longest in yards (65) and plays (10) on the afternoon.
The Bears retaliated with a 10-play, 62-yard touchdown drive of their own as Cody Kirby hit freshman Cadarrius Dotson from eight yards out to cap the four-minute, 22-second series and give Missouri State a 7-3 advantage.
After Murray State turned the ball over on downs at the Missouri State 27, the Bears marched 73 yards for another score two-and-a-half minutes later. This time it was Kirby connecting with Jermaine Saffold for a 26-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-3. Kirby had 140 passing yards in the first half.
In the second quarter, Missouri State's defense rose up with a series of sensational plays. The first momentum builder came on a 55-yard fumble recovery and return by Skylar Smith to make it 21-3. Later in the quarter, after Murray State killed a Bears' drive at the Racers' three-yard line with an interception by Harry McCall, Travis Ribbing came off the left end three plays later to sack Jeff Ehrhardt, forcing the ball loose. Waylon Richardet jumped on the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to increase the Bears' lead to 28-3.
The Bears ended the first half with a missed 52-yard field goal by Matt Hottelman, and then drove to the Murray State 26 on their first possession of the second half, only to see Hottelman miss a 43-yarder. Both kicks were wide left.
On their their third possession of the third quarter, Missouri State drove 76 yards on just five plays for their final score of the day as Kirby hit tight end Wes Miller in the end zone to make it 35-3 with 1:03 to play in the period.
The Racers produced their only touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter as Ehrhardt connected with DeAngelo Nelson down the left sideline for a 35-yard touchdown score. Murray State would stop the Bears on downs in the red zone on the next two possessions, but could pull no closer as the rains intensified late in the ball game.
Murray State finished with 223 yards in kickoff and punt return yards, including 117 return yards by Derrick Townsel. Townsel also shared game-high honors in receiving with seven catches for 91 yards. Teammate Marcus Harris also had seven catches for 69 yards.
Ehrhardt was sacked seven times by the Bears, including 1.5 sacks by Richardet, and finished the day 21-for-42 for 250 yards and two interceptions. Murray State was held to 27 rushing yards on 30 carries.
The Bears used their balanced rushing attack to account for 169 yards on 44 carries, including Miguel Warren's career-high 79 yards on six carries. Kirby was 17-for-28 through the air for 223 yards and three touchdowns. It was Kirby's first three-touchdown effort since Oct. 4, 2008 against Western Illinois and his first 200-yard passing effort in four games.
Dotson led all Bears' receivers with four catches for 38 yards as 10 different Missouri State players accounted for receptions.
Defensively, Derek Miller had both Missouri State interceptions, while Adam Beauchamp shared team-high honors with Skylar Smith with eight stops apiece. Richardet had six tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
It marked the first time since 2006 that the Bears had held back-to-back opponents under 20 points.
The Bears host No. 3 Northern Iowa (2-1) next Saturday at 1 p.m. on Family Weekend at Missouri State. Tickets are available on-line at www.MissouriStateTix.com or by calling (417) 836-7678.
[final stats and cumulative season stats attached in PDF format]