Grid Bears fall at UNI
The Missouri State Bears never got out of the blocks against a second straight Gateway Football Conference defending co-champ Saturday and came away on the short end of a 38-7 score to the #14 Northern Iowa Panthers in a league matchup in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Bears dropped their fourth game in a row and fell to 1-5 for the season and 0-2 in Gateway play while UNI was playing its conference opener and climbed to 3-2 for the campaign.
Missouri State managed just two first downs in the first half but the Bears saved a UNI touchdown when S Mike Radon intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it out of danger, while UNI missed two of three field goal attempts so the Panther halftime lead was 17-0. The Bears made a bid to get back into the contest as they recovered a UNI fumble on the second half kickoff and moved 34 yards in just three plays to score. QB Matt Krapfl found WR Jeremy Nicholson in the left flat and Nicholson danced his way 30 yards into the end zone to make it 17-7.
That was it for the Bears as last year’s NCAA I-AA runner-up punched up three touchdowns in the last 11 minutes of the third quarter to put the issue out of reach. It was the second week in a row Missouri State gave up more than 20 points in the third period after another GFC 2005 co-champ Youngstown State had 28 points in the third period a week ago. Missouri State’s challenges grew when the Bears lost their top two quarterbacks after their lone touchdown. Krapfl was injured on the next possession after MSU score and backup Garrett Congdon went out after a 10-yard run on the first play of the fourth period. Neither player returned to the game.
The Bears finished the game with 180 total yards and eight first down to 411 yards and 21 first downs for host UNI. MSU P Nathan Stokes averaged over 41 yards on nine punts in a bid to keep UNI at bay, but the Panthers averaged 16.2 yards on five punt returns to go with 44 yards on two kickoff returns and enjoyed good field position most of the contest. The Bears came up with two turnovers against one lost fumble.
UNI QB Eric Sanders was an efficient 10-of-14 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns. UNI’s first score came on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage in the contest as Sanders tossed a 51-yarder to WR James Lindgren.TB Whitney Lewis scored the first of his two touchdowns in the game to make it 17-0 after one period and it stayed that way until the Bears got their lone TD in the third period. TB Darien Williams rushed for 123 yards and the fifth UNI score.
TB RaMel McIntosh with 43 yards and TB Michael Cooper with 41 yards led Missouri State in rushing but Bear passers hit on just seven of 17 throws for only 51 yards. The frustration of the game was no better illustrated than the final minute of the game when Missouri State had a first down on the UNI two but a fumbled snap kept the Bears from a second touchdown.
The game marked the return of Missouri State head coach Terry Allen to the school and the stadium where he spent 23 years as a player, assistant coach and eight years as head coach and took UNI to seven straight Gateway titles from 1989 to 1996.
The Bears return to Springfield next week to take on Western Kentucky in a Gateway matchup at Plaster Field. Kickoff is 3 p.m.