Missouri State Hangs on for 21-17 Victory at North Dakota State
FARGO, N.D. - The Missouri State football Bears (5-3, 3-2) played opportunistic football on offense and used three big defensive sequences backed up against their own goal line late in the game to pull out a 21-17 Missouri Valley Football Conference win over the North Dakota State Bison (1-7, 0-5) Saturday in the FargoDome.
The Bears won in their first-ever trip to North Dakota State, claimed their fourth straight league road win, dating back to last season. It was just the second Harvest Bowl loss for the Bison in 35 tries.
With NDSU operating deep in MSU territory three times in the final 12 minutes of the contest, the Bears got a fumble recovery on their own one-yard line, held the Bison to a field goal on a second deep thrust, and then got four straight stops inside the Bear 45 on the final NDSU possession to get the ball back with 1:25 to play and North Dakota State out of time outs.
The Bears got off to a flying start, holding NDSU to a three-and-out on its opening possession before Luther Roweton blocked the ensuing punt, setting the Bears up at the Bison 17. After Mikael Cooper-Falls carried the ball to the 8 on a pair of carries, MSU was called for an illegal shift, making it third-and-six. On the next play, Kirby rolled left on a misdirection play and scrambled untouched into the end zone to give Missouri State an early 7-0 lead with just under 12 minutes to go in the opening period.
The run was the junior quarterback's 19th career rushing touchdown.
After forcing the Bison to punt again on their next possession, the Bears wasted a huge opportunity, driving from their own 20 to the NDSU 15 before Matt Hottelman missed a 33-yard field goal attempt, wide right, neutralizing a 65-yard drive.
It looked as if the damage would be minimal after the Bears' defense held the Bison to another three-and-out on their next series. However, Rodney Kelly ran into punter John Prelvitz for a 15-yard penalty, which gave NDSU the ball back on its own 41. The Bears complicated matters with another personal foul, face masking penalty to extend the Bison drive to the Bears' 27. Two plays later, Joe Mohler hit Lee Vandal for a 21-yard touchdown strike to tie the game, 7-7, capping a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
The Bears continued moving the ball on their third drive, but shot themselves in the foot again with their fourth penalty of the first half. On third-and-one at their own 49, Chris Douglas ran 51 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown, but the play was called back with a holding penalty. Kirby, however, scrambled out of the pocket to his left and hit Clay Harbor in stride for a first down to the NDSU 49. Nine plays later, Kirby found Harbor in the end zone for a 10-yard TD strike, the ninth of Harbor's career, to make it 14-7 with 5:26 to go in the half. The seven-minute, 25-second drive was the second-longest of the season for Missouri State.
Three plays into the next NDSU series, Mohler completed a 48-yard strike to Gary Williams to the Missouri State three. Two plays later, Pat Paschall carried it into the end zone from two yards out to tie the game, 14-14, with 3:12 left in the first half.
On the second play of the second half, Cooper-Falls, rushed 57 yards for a Bears touchdown to put them up 21-14 just 49 seconds into the third. It was the Bears' longest run from scrimmage this season and put the MSU freshman at 80 yards for the game, the highest single-game output of the season by an MSU ball carrier.
Midway through the third, the Bison drove to the MSU 10, and Adam Beauchamp came up with a huge third-and-one stop for no gain as Paschall was hit and dropped at the line of scrimmage. NDSU pushed forward on fourth down, but Beauchamp was there to meet Paschall again, turning the ball back to the Bears with 5:38 to play in the period.
However, MSU could not capitalize, getting stopped themselves on fourth-and-one at the NDSU 24-yarde line 12 plays later after driving 66 yards.
With 8:14 to go in the fourth, Jordan Chiles' punt was blocked on the Bears' fourth series of the half, setting the Bison up at the Bears 17-yard line.
However, Paschall carried to the one yard line before fumbling, where Derek Miller picked it up for the Bears with 6:58 to play. But, with 99 yards ahead of them, the Bears kept it on the ground, and three straight carries by Miguel Warren netted just nine yards, forcing Chiles onto the scene. His punt to the Bears' 44 was fielded on a line by D.J. McNorton and returned to the MSU 11 at the 4:48 mark.
Paschall was hit for a loss on the first play to the Bears' 11, then Mohler fumbled to the 17 which NDSU recovered. On third down, Jimmie Strong broke up a pass into the corner, forcing the Bison into a 35-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Jastram which he converted to make it 21-17 at the 3:01 mark before the Bears held on late.
Cooper-Falls became the first MSU running back with a 100-yard game this season, as he carried 16 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Kirby was 9-for-12 for 104 and a touchdown.
Paschall led NDSU, which outgained the Bears 329-324, with 148 yards on 26 carries.
The Bears return to Plaster Field next Saturday at 1 p.m. to take on Illinois State on Homecoming.