Bears Fall in Double Overtime at No. 25 Illinois State
NORMAL, Ill. - A game of comebacks ended in a disappointing 44-41 loss in double overtime for the Missouri State Bears (1-2) in their Missouri Valley Football Conference opener at Illinois State (3-1, 2-0) Saturday.
The nationally-televised game saw 957 yards of total offense, including 418 by the Bears, in a shootout that included two ties and three lead changes.
Trailing 34-31 in the final minutes of regulation, the Bears took over at their own 27 with 2:02 to go and marched 64 yards on nine plays before settling for the game-tying field goal by Jordan Chiles as time expired. The 26-yard kick capped an impressive drive by Cody Kirby and company that took nine plays and saw the Bears get all the way to the nine-yard line. Kirby's pass intended for Jermaine Saffold in the endzone with 7.1 seconds to go sailed just high to set up the field goal.
In overtime, it took ISU just two plays to convert a touchdown as Ashton Leggett carried six yards to make it 41-34 after Matt Brown completed a 19-yard strike to Marvon Sanders on the first play.
The Bears, who chose to go on defense first after winning the toss, got a 24-yard completion from Kirby to Matt Thayer to the one-yard line on their first play, followed by a one-yard TD run by Kirby, tying his career-high three rushing touchdowns and tying the game, 41-41.
In the second overtime, Chiles missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, wide left, after the Bears failed to gain any ground on three plays. Illinois State then went conservative and gained just three yards before turning the game over to Steven Fitzer who connected on a game-winning 39-yard field goal, his third three-pointer in five attempts on the night.
Illinois State started the night out with a bang on the game's opening kickoff, an 89-yard return by Ben Ericksen to the MSU 4. He was caught from behind by Chris Douglas, but one play later, the Redbirds found paydirt with a four-yard run by Leggett. The extra point was blocked by Mikel Ruder to keep it 6-0 early.
After forcing the Bears to punt after three plays on their initial drive, the Redbirds fired back again. Starting from their own 21, Brown completed a 51-yard pass to Sanders to the MSU 25. Two plays later, Brown hit Tyron Walker in the corner of the end zone for a 23-yard score to make it 13-0 at the 11:34 mark of the opening quarter after the Fitzer PAT. The four-play, 79-yard drive took just 97 seconds.
The Bears struck back on a 54-yard kick return by freshman Julian Burton on the ensuing kickoff to get the ball into Redbird territory at the 30. On the third play of the drive, Kirby completed a swing pass to Stephen Johnston to the three for a 20-yard gain. Johnston then carried twice from there and took it into the end zone on the second try, from one yard out, to make it 13-7 at the 9:44 mark.
Burton was injured on the long kickoff return and did not return.
Later in the quarter, Fetzer missed a 39-yard field goal, which set the Bears up at their own 22. On the next play, Kirby was intercepted by Kelvyn Hemphill, and returned to the 18, the first time the Redbirds had intercepted the MSU senior in 91 career pass attempts against them.
The Bears bounced off the canvas with a pick of their own, a redzone interception by Jimmie Strong who returned it to the ISU 45 to end the threat. The Bears would take advantage of the turnover and drive to the ISU 16 before settling for a 34-yard field goal by Chiles to cap a 29-yard scoring drive and make it 13-10.
At the 10:21 mark of the second, Fetzer would convert a career-long 51-yard field goal to make it 16-10, but the Bears took their first lead of the night moments later.
On the first play from their own 23, Kirby connected 50 yards to Jermaine Saffold to the ISU 27. Kirby then carried nine yards to the 18, and then Douglas carried four times for 17 yards to the one. Missouri State then gained its first lead of the game on a one-yard sneak by Kirby. The six-play, 77-yard drive consumed just 2:41 and gave the Bears a 17-13 lead with 7:34 to go in the half.
But the lead was short-lived as Brown drove the Redbirds 68 yards for a go-ahead score with 4:05 on the clock. The 11-play drive took just 3:24 and culminated in Leggett's second touchdown of the half, a five-yard carry.
But the Bears retaliated yet again to take the lead into the berak. A 56-yard touchdown run by Kirby, a career-long dash, soon followed and completed a three-play drive that covered 67 yards. The 24-23 lead with 2:57 to go held up through three more possessions and a missed 54-yard field goal attempt by Fetzer.
After the teams exchanged punts to open the second half, Missouri State used its ground attack to set up the first score of the second half. Johnston accounted for 30 of the 41 yards on the drive that culminated in a two-yard TD pass from Kirby to tight end Matt Thayer, his first career score. The seven-play scoring drive gave the Bears a 31-23 advantage with 5:25 to go in the third and consumed nearly three-and-a-half minutes.
The Bears stopped a deep ISU drive moments later after the Redbirds drove to the MSU 31. With pressure from his right from Sam Block, Brown was picked for the second time on the night, as Derek Miller stepped up at the 17 and returned the interception to the MSU 41. It was Miller's sixth career interception.
Illinois State punted on its other two possessions of the third quarter, but opened the fourth from their own 33 and put together an impressive drive that was salvaged by a critical MSU holding penalty. On third-and-10 from his own 33, Brown fired incomplete, but defensive holding was called against the Bears, resulting in an automatic first down and keeping the series alive. The Rebirds got down to the three before settling for a Fetzer 20-yard field goal to make it 31-26 with 9:15 to go. The impressive drive covered 67 yards in 14 plays.
The Redbirds struck again two possessions later, marching 96 yards in 4:44 on 12 plays as Leggett converted a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:08 on the clock for his third score of the night. The two-point conversion pass by Brown was good making it a 34-31 game.
The Bears last-minute rally to tie the game with no timeouts gave Kirby 187 passing yards on the night on 16-of-30. He also collected 84 yards on the ground with three scores to push past 500 career rushing yards.
Johnston had a game-high 88 yards on 19 carries to lead the Bears who also got 50 yards on 13 carries from Douglas. MSU had a season-high 231 rushing yards on the night.
ISU was led by Brown who threw for 391 yards on 30-of-50 pass attempts, including 12 receptions for 167 by Sanders. Despite four touchdowns, Leggett finished with just 86 yards on 24 carries.
The Bears will return home Saturday at 1 p.m. as they take on Youngstown State at Plaster Field on Family Weekend and Football Alumni Weekend.