North Dakota State Scores 35 in the Second Half, Beats Bears 48-27
After an even first half of football on senior day at Missouri State, the Bears fell short as visiting North Dakota State, ranked No. 25 in the Division I FCS, rolled up 35 second-half points en route to a 48-27 win over the Bears in the first meeting between the two schools.
A Nick Schommer interception of a Cody Kirby (So., QB, Rogers, Ark.) pass on Missouri State’s opening drive of the second half, led to the Bison go-ahead score, and after Tyler Roehl's six-yard touchdown run to make it 20-13, NDSU forced another turnover moments later. On MSU's next drive, Kirby was hit and fumbled, allowing Joe Lardinois to pick up the loose ball and return it 14 yards for a touchdown and extend NDSU’s lead to 27-13, with 7:48 remaining in the third. Missouri State's two turnovers on its first two second-half possessions proved to be the difference, and the Bears would never catch NDSU.
NDSU (6-4, 4-3) had 462 yards total offense, but the Bears won the time of possession (35:45) and had more first downs, 19-17.
Kirby finished with 217 passing yards -- his fifth 200-yard game of the season -- and was 15-for-28 through the air, despite being sacked eight times on the day. Bears' tight end Clay Harbor (Jr., Dwight, Ill.) caught a career high eight passes for 113 yards, while Chris Geisz (Sr., WR, St. Louis, Mo.) had a touchdown grab. Kirby also ran for two scores for the Bears who were penalized a season-high 11 times, surrendering 127 yards in sacks and penalties on the offensive side.
Trailing 27-13 in the third, Kirby brought the Bears back within 27-20 after he ran it in from one yard out. He eclipsed the 3,500-yard mark in career passing on the drive with 52 yards on 2-for-3 attempts. The 86-yard drive consumed 6:16 and took 13 plays and was one of the team's longest drives of the season.
However, with the Bears creeping back into the game, the Bison went to the air, marching 59 yards on a pair of long completions to extend their lead to two touchdowns just three plays later. Mertens completed a 12-yard TD strike to Thor Brown to make it 34-20 with 1:08 left in the third quarter to put the finishing touches on a quick, 59-yard drive.
A Clayton Dickehut (Sr., DE, Derby, Kan.) fumble recovery at the NDSU 19 with 9:52 remaining in the fourth set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kirby to Geisz three plays later to once again bring the Bears back within seven points, 34-27. But, Roehl turned the tides with an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing drive to extend the lead to 41-27. Rather than running out the clock on their final possession, the Bison kept chasing points and eventually added a late touchdown with 1:19 to play to pull away 48-27.
Roehl finished with 188 yards on 21 carries and a pair of touchdowns for the Bison, while Mertens was 8-for-10 for 108 yards.
On the game’s opening kickoff, the Bears’ Skylar Smith (So., S, Springfield, Mo.) forced a fumble, and the Bears recovered at the NDSU 29 yard line, setting up an eventual 44-yard field goal by Matt Hottelman (Jr., K, O’Fallon, Mo.) to give the Bears an early 3-0 lead.
The Bison retaliated with a 29-yard field goal of their own on the ensuing drive, as Shawn Bibeau connected on a 29-yard field goal to cap a 71-yard scoring drive and tie the game, 3-3, at the 8:08 mark.
Bibeau added a 23-yard field goal on the Bison’s next possession to make it 6-3, but the Bears regained the lead at the 13:14 mark of the second quarter on a five-yard touchdown run by Kirby. Kirby’s 15th career rushing touchdown capped a 55-yard drive that took just six plays and gave the Bears a 10-6 lead.
At the 9:59 mark of the second quarter, Bison Mertens countered with a one-yard TD run of his own. The eight-play, 66-yard drive gave the lead back to NDSU, 13-10.
The Bears marched 67 yards on 12 plays moments later, and tied the game on Hottelman’s second field goal of the half a 22-yarder to tie the game, 13-13 with 3:11 to go in the half. The drive included a 32-yard completion from Kirby to Chase Mejia (Fr., WR, Columbia, Mo.) and a 24-yard strike to Harbor, extending Harbor’s streak to 21 consecutive games with a reception.
NDSU fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Bears at the Bison 43 late in the half, but the Bison held on defense, and the teams went in to the half tied at 13-13.
Cedric Alvis (Jr., CB, Columbia, Mo.) had seven tackles and his fourth career interception to lead the Missouri State defense, while Roger Wright (Sr., S, Grandview, Mo.) had six tackles and a fumble recovery.