Bears Turn Back No. 20 Youngstown State, 35-25, in Plaster Thriller
SPRINGFIELD -- Missouri State dug itself out of an early double-figure deficit to turn back visiting Youngstown State here Saturday afternoon in Missouri Valley Football Conference play, 35-25.
The Bears (2-2, 1-1) scored 28 straight points after falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter, thanks in part to early touchdown runs of 71 and five yards by Jamaine Cook. The sophomore finished with a game-high 167 yards on 26 carries for the 20th-ranked Penguins.
The Bears rallied behind a second quarter touchdown by Cadarrius Dotson to make it 17-7 with 13:43 to go in the first half as he made a diving catch in the end zone on a 30-yard strike from Cody Kirby. Later in the quarter, the Bears drove 72 yards to the YSU 10-yard line before a Jordan Chiles field goal attempt sailed wide left.
Youngstown (3-2, 1-1) ran out the clock to end the half, but the Bears seemed to regroup at the intermission, and soon reeled off 21 more unanswered points.
With 3:37 to go in the third, the Bears downed a punt at the Penguins' two-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, YSU quarterback Kurt Hess fumbled the snap in the paint, allowing Howard Scarborough the opportunity to put MSU on the board with the end zone fumble recovery and make it a 17-14 game.
On YSU's next drive, Adam Beauchamp stepped in front of a YSU receiver on a key third-and-six play and returned it for a touchdown to give the Bears the lead. It was the senior's first interception at Missouri State, and his 40-yard return for a score was the second-longest of the season for the Bears.
Beauchamp finished with a team-high 10 tackles and two pass break-ups.
Terry Allen's team was not content with the 21-17 lead, and drive 56 yards on five plays on the first series of the fourth quarter on a 22-yard touchdown run by Chris Douglas. The drive was set up by a key defensive stand that stopped the Penguins cold at their own 44 on a fourth-and-one rushing play. Douglas' run made it 28-17 with 11:37 to go.
Youngstown State ended a nine-possession scoring drought on the next series by marching 76 yards on nine plays to stay in the game. A two-yard score by Jordan Thompson made it a 28-25 game with 7:41 to go after Hess squeezed across the plane on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt.
But once again, the Bears roared back and mounted an impressive drive of their own, as Kirby drove Missouri State 72 yards on eight plays for the game-clinching score. A 43-yard strike to Jermaine Saffold with 3:33 left in the contest sealed the deal and made it a 35-25 game late.
Hess would throw another interception on the ensuing possession to put the game on ice, as freshman Nick Canavan pulled in an errant pass and returned it to the YSU 17.
Saffold and Dotson finished with 114 and 103 receiving yards, respectively, for Missouri State to mark the first time the Bears had posted multiple 100-yard receivers in the same game since Nov. 8, 2003. Saffold's nine catches was also a career-high and marked his third career 100-yard game.
Kirby was 24-for-39 for 298 yards, his 14th career 200-yard passing game, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. During the win, he became Missouri State's career leader in pass completions (586) and total offense (7,419), while extending his touchdown pass record to 43.
The Bears outgained the Penguins 410-333 and forced three turnovers in recording their first win over an FCS Top 25 opponent in their last 11 tries. The Bears' last victory over a ranked foe came on Oct. 6, 2007 over No. 22 Illinois State.
Youngstown State was led by Cook's 167 rushing yards and Hess' 165 passing yards on 13-of-33 with two interceptions with no touchdowns. The pair accounted for all but one yard of the Penguins' game total.
The Bears will play their final non-conference opponent of the season next Saturday at Murray State, starting at 3 p.m. before resuming league play at Indiana State on Oct. 16. Missouri State's next home game is its homecoming game on October 23 against Western Illinois at 1 p.m.