Big second half carries Bears past No. 22 Illinois State, 58-41
The Missouri State football Bears jumped from the starting gate to grab a quick double-digit lead, watched No. 22 Illinois State fashion a double-digit lead of its own even more quickly, and then roared from behind in the second half to pound out a 58-41 Gateway Football Conference win over the Redbirds Saturday afternoon at Plaster Field. The victory snapped a string of five straight Missouri State losses to ISU.
The Bears punched up three straight touchdowns in a six-minute span of clock time at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth period to turn a 34-31 deficit into a 51-34 lead as freshman QB Cody Kirby’s four touchdown passes on the day sent the young Bears to 4-2 on the season and evened their Gateway mark at 1-1. The Bears won their fourth home game in a row, dating back to last season, and dropped Illinois State to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the league.
Missouri State played the same opportunistic football in the second half Illinois State had used in the second quarter when the Redbirds dropped four touchdowns on the Bears in eight minutes. The Bears jumped in front early as K Nathan Stokes booted a field goal, TB Kingjack Washington scored on a 23-yard run and TB Gerald Davis tallied on a two-yard run. One play into the second quarter, the Bears were up, 17-0.
The Redbirds came roaring back with an 80-yard drive and then took advantage of a blocked punt and two Bears’ fumbles to tally on drives of 16, 17 and 36 yards. With two minutes left in the half, ISU has bulled its way into a 28-17 advantage. Missouri State cut the gap to 28-24 at the half as a two-yard TD throw from Kirby to WR Jared Emery with 15 seconds left in the second period capped a 76-yard Bears’ scoring drive.
Missouri State stopped ISU with the second half kickoff and then moved 81 yards, capped by a 43-yard scoring pass from Kirby to K. Washington. Illinois State drove 80 yards to retake the lead but the Bears’ offense was just getting warmed up. Missouri State moved 64 yards on just seven plays with G. Davis scoring from the 17 to push MSU up, 38-34. A pass interception by LB Jeron Poole got the ball right back from MSU at the ISU 12 and Kirby found TE Clay Harbor on a 10-yard TD pass. The Bears’ held Illinois State on downs and the next drive was a one-play, 64-yard touchdown pass from Kirby to WR Eric Davis to make it 51-34.
Illinois State scored at the mid-point of the fourth quarter but the Bears matched that with a 65-yard drive that consumed almost six minutes of the clock. G. Davis tallied his third touchdown of the game from five yards out with 1:42 to play. CB Marcus Colbert then blunted ISU’s final possession as he intercepted a pass on the two-yard line inside the final minute and carried it 45 yards to put the issue out of reach.
G. Davis had a career-high 123 yards rushing and his second multiple-TD game of the year as he ran he season touchdown total to 10. K. Washington gained 95 yards on the ground. Kirby hit 17-of-24 passes for a season-high 277 yards to go with his four TD aerials. Cl. Harbor’s six catches for 79 yards led a group of four Bears with multiple receptions and Kirby had seven different receivers in the game. TB Geno Blow ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns for Illinois State and Drone hit 17 passes for 163 yards but suffered three interceptions in the contest. The Bears rolled up 524 yards in total offense, topped 40 points in scoring for the fourth time in six games, and moved their season scoring average to 40.7 points a contest. The Bears have tallied 244 points in six games after getting 194 in 11 games in 2006.
Missouri State hits the road next week for a Gateway game at Macomb, Ill., Saturday (Oct. 13) against Western Illinois. Kickoff is 1:05 p.m.