SPRINGFIELD – After a thrilling first half, Missouri State took a 24-17 lead into halftime of Saturday’s homecoming matchup with visiting Central Arkansas. But with two additional turnovers in the second half – six for the game – and unable to generate a scoring drive in the final 30 minutes, Missouri State (0-3) dropped a 33-24 decision to the 11th ranked visitors at Robert W. Plaster Stadium.
For the game, UCA (3-3) turned Missouri State’s six turnovers into 24 points, with the longest scoring drive by the visitors following a Bears mishap being 43 yards. The short-field situations yielded key points while the purple Bears outgained the home side, 166-52 in the third and fourth quarters.
UCA quarterback Breylin Smith did the heavy lifting, keeping Central Arkansas turnover free and collecting 175 yards on 18-of-36 passing. Kierre Crossley also picked up 71 yards on 18 carries with Mitchell Perkinson and Tobias Enlow snagging five receptions apiece.
Hayden Ray kicked three field goals in the third quarter to erase Missouri State’s lead with kicks of 46, 43 and 23 yards, to push UCA ahead 26-24 with 4:13 to go in the third. Then, after Davis Harrison’s interception of MSU quarterback Jake Van Dyne, UCA added the exclamation point with Smith’s 42-yard strike to speedster Tyler Hudson for the touchdown.
The two-play scoring drive made it a 33-24 contest, and Missouri State’s last four drives of the night ended on punts or downs to close out what was an otherwise competitive game for the Bears. MSU out-gained UCA for the second time in two meetings this fall, 330-268, and also had the edge in first downs, 17-16.
In his long-awaited return to the lineup, Missouri State’s Jeremiah Wilson gained 100 yards on 13 carries, including a 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He became the first Bear to rush for 100 yards since Jason Randall vs. Northern Arizona on Sept. 15, 2018.
MSU starting quarterback Jaden Johnson was pulled in the second after a rough start that included a pair of interceptions and a fumble. He was 5-for-16 for 62 yards, including his return in the fourth quarter. Van Dyne was 7-for-13 for 92 yards and also threw two picks.
Standouts Jordan Murray (34 yards) and Damoriea Vick (50 yards) led MSU’s receivers with three receptions apiece. Ferrin Manuleleua was MSU’s catalyst on defense with 12 total stop, 2.0 tackles for loss and a sack. Titus Wall also contributed 9 tackles for Missouri State with a game-high 7 solo stops.
In a second quarter filled with six scoring plays, Missouri State overcame four turnovers and numerous penalties to take a 24-17 lead at the intermission. In his first appearance of the season, Wilson sparked the offense for the home side, racking up 98 first-half rushing yards and accounting for one of three MSU rushing scores in the period.
After Keshun Parker and Kevon Latulas pushed Missouri State ahead 14-3 early in the second period with runs of one and 63 yards, respectively, UCA capitalized on back-to-back Bear turnovers. Deandre Lamont snagged a Johnson pass and returned it 35 yards for a TD two minutes before Perkinson snagged a Breylin Smith pass and found paydirt to cover a 26-yard short-field drive after an MSU fumble. UCA’s second score gave the visitors a 17-14 advantage at the time.
However, Missouri State then turned to freshman quarterback Van Dayne who engineered back-to-back scoring drives to end the half. First, pushing MSU 83 yards on 11 plays before Wilson found paydirt on his 9-yard TD run. Then on a 30-yard field goal by Jose Pizano at the horn to cap a 39-yard drive before the intermission and make it a 24-17 lead for Missouri State at the midway point.
Missouri State will now pause the 2020-21 season until Feb. 20 when the Bears begin an eight-game Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule at league newcomer North Dakota.