TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Behind a season-high 247 ground yards, Missouri State rolled to a 24-7 road victory over Indiana State here Saturday in the season finale for both clubs.
The Bears (5-6, 3-5) got 100 rushing yards from Kevon Latulas – his third career 100-yard game – and 85 more from Jacardia Wright who scored a pair of touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the MoState defense was up to the task, allowing just one first down and 27 total yards in the second half and holding the Sycamores (2-9, 1-7) to 283 yards for the game. The Bears also recorded three takeaways and held on fourth down twice in the final quarter to secure the victory.
The Bears close out the campaign with two straight victories and three wins in their last four contests.
“They really played hard,” Bears coach Bobby Petrino said of his squad. “I was so happy for how hard we played and how hard we competed. Our players played as hard as we possibly could. We had to grind it out, and the conditions weren’t great, but it was a team effort.”
After leading 10-7 at the half, Missouri State was unable to extend its advantage in the third quarter, punting twice and turning it over on a rare Jason Shelley interception. But MSU’s defense picked up the slack, also forcing two ISU punts and allowing just 11 yards after the interception in a drive that resulted in a missed 29-yard field goal by ISU’s Ryan O’Grady.
After the missed kick, the Bears took over at their own 28 and ground out one of their most impressive drives of the season. Shelley and Wright did the heavy lifting on a 12-play, 72-yard march that chewed up just under seven minutes and culminated in a 5-yard TD run by Wright. It was MSU’s longest scoring drive of the season in terms of time (6:53).
Wright had 7 carries for 36 yards on the drive with Shelley adding 13 yards on the ground in addition to a key 21-yard pass to Naveon Mitchell to give MSU first-and-goal at the four.
Wright’s second score of the afternoon made it a 17-7 game and gave the visitors some breathing room on a day with wind chills in the upper teens.
Indiana State was unable to move the ball on its final three drives, going three-and-out on the first, and turning it over on downs on its final two possessions of the afternoon.
The Bears turned Indiana State’s first fourth-down mishap into seven points to put the game on ice. Latulas ripped off a 25-yard carry from the ISU 26 on the first play. He then punched it in from one yard out to finish the game with an even 100 yards on nine carries to make it a 24-7 game with 4:21 to go.
Latulas also eclipsed 1,000 career rushing yards earlier in the afternoon.
With the cold and windy conditions, Shelley’s numbers were not his standard. The senior signal caller was 10-of-25 for 156 yards and also accounted for 36 ground yards to finish with 192 yards of total offense in his final game.
MSU’s top receiver was Ty Scott who had 3 catches for 45 yards.
On the defensive side, Von Young led MSU with 11 total tackles, while Ferrin Manuleleua posted 7 stops and a pair of pass break-ups.
The Bears racked up 244 yards and a dozen first downs in the opening half to take a 10-7 lead into the break.
A one-yard touchdown rush by Wright late in the first quarter gave the Bears a seven-point advantage early. The 80-yard scoring march was set up with a 43-yard run by Latulas to the ISU 22. He would carry it twice more to the one-yard line before Wright punched it in with 13 seconds left in the period.
Indiana State wasted little time tying it up as Justin Dinka scored on a 61-yard run 23 seconds later to make it 7-7 at the 14:50 mark of the second. The two-play scoring drive was all the points ISU would get in the opening half as the Bears halted the home team’s next two possessions, first with a punt, then on an interception by Kyriq McDonald.
Jose Pizano’s 44-yard field goal into the wind with 4:48 to go before the half pushed the Bears back on top, 10-7, and capped an eight-play, 41-yard drive that included a 30-yard pass to Wright into ISU territory.
“I thought the seniors showed a lot of leadership and a lot of pride,” said Petrino. This senior class did a whole lot for this program, and I’ll miss them all.”
The team’s fifth win of the season extended MSU’s streak of at least five wins in three straight campaigns, marking the first time since 1999-2001 the Bears have reached that milestone.