Story and photo courtesy of Missouri State Athletics
NORMAL, Ill. - Missouri State (2-6, 2-3 MVFC) rallied in the fourth quarter for the second straight week and claimed its second Missouri Valley Football Conference win a row here Saturday, topping No. 11 Illinois State, 24-17, behind a long drive late in the fourth quarter.
Down 14-12 with 9:25 to go, the Bears and backup quarterback Ashton Glaser went to work. Mikael Cooper-Falls helped lead the team down the field, carrying seven times on the possession to burn the clock and move the chains. But it was Glaser's clutch passes that kept the Bears' hopes alive.
First, on a third-and-three play from their own 31, Glaser hit Matt Thayer for three yards to sustain the possession. Later, the junior signal caller connected with Thayer for 18 yards to the ISU 22. And finally a 15-yard completion to Tre Kelley to the Redbirds' 11-yard line set up the winning touchdown - a two-yard run by Glaser -- two plays later.
Glaser entered the game late in the first half when starter Kierra Harris took a helmet off the hip. Harris would return briefly, but Glaser completed the game-winning drive. He finished 5-for-5 through air for 49 yards to go with 13 ground yards.
After the Bears took the 19-14 lead, the Redbirds muffed the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at their own three-yard line and set up shop there with 2:53 to play. But on the first play from scrimmage, Howard Scarborough tackled Darrelynn Dunn in the end zone for the visitors' second safety of the afternoon to make it a 21-14 game.
The Bears recovered the on-sides free kick, then ran another 1:42 off the clock before calling on Austin Witmer who booted a 42-yard field goal, his second of the game. Witmer's kick made it 24-14 and helped him improve to 11-for-14 on field goal attempts this season.
Later, the Redbirds (6-2, 3-2) got a 47-yard field goal by Nick Aussieker with 10 seconds left in the game to sustain their comeback hopes. The 46-yard desperation drive took just 53 seconds and seven plays. However, the ensuing on-side kick was recovered by Matt Swan for the Bears who ran out the clock and snapped a four-game road skid.
Cooper-Falls finished with 61 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Dorian Buford had a team-high 4 receptions for 100 yards, his third 100-yard receiving game of the campaign for MSU.
Illinois State's Matt Brown was 19-for-33 for 204 yards. He was intercepted once, and completed a game-high six passes to Dunn (31 yards). He improved to 9,232 career passing yards in the game, surpassing UNI's Ryan Helming for the conference's career passing yardage lead.
MSU's comeback came after a rough third quarter that belonged to Illinois State. The Redbirds outgained the Bears 104-24 in the quarter and took the lead at the 3:04 mark of the period on a pass from Brown to Tyrone Walker from 15 yards. The scoring grab capped a six-play scoring drive and gave the No. 11 Redbirds their first lead of the afternoon, 14-9.
The Bears struck back on their first series of the fourth quarter, as Harris drove the Bears 62 yards on 9 plays, to the Illinois State 2-yard line before MSU settled for a 20-yard field goal by Witmer to make it 14-12 at the 12:25 mark. A 46-yard pass from Harris to Buford to the ISU 7-yard line set up the score and kept the visitors within striking distance. Buford's circus-like catch helped him to his third 100-yard receiving game of the season.
The Bears, who led 9-7 at the half, outgained Illinois State, 305-282, and had two more first downs, 17-15. Both teams averaged 2.3 yards per carry on the ground with MSU outgaining the Redbirds, 115-78, in the rushing phase.
Early on, the Bears wasted no time getting on the board early, taking the opening drive of the game 79 yards on 10 plays to paydirt. MSU was 3-for-3 on third down on the drive, including a 41-yard strike from Harris to Buford to the ISU 4-yard line. Three plays later, Harris slipped through the Redbirds defense into the end zone to make it 7-0 at the 11:20 mark.
After the teams traded three-and-out series, the Bears added two more points with a safety at the 7:23 mark. Nate Davis stripped the ball from ISU quarterback Brown at the Illinois State 11. The ball bounced toward and then through the Redbirds' end zone to make it a 9-0 game at the time.
The 9-0 MSU advantage held until early in the second quarter where ISU took advantage of a short field after a short Missouri State punt. Starting from the MSU 49, Illinois State scored 11 plays later when Brown hit Tyrone Walker for a 3-yard touchdown pass at the 9:56 mark. The drive consumed just over five-and-a-half minutes and made it a 9-7 game.
Missouri State will host Western Illinois next Saturday (Oct. 27) at 1 p.m., at Plaster Field for a Homecoming tilt with the Leathernecks. Tickets are available now at MissouriStateTix.com, or during regular box office hours at (417) 836-7678 or the Chevy Pickup Window at JQH Arena.