It took three overtimes, but Missouri State has its first win of the season.
Missouri State (1-3) snapped an eight-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 37-31 triple-overtime win at Western Illinois (0-5) on Saturday.
The Bears overcame a 14-point deficit to come back and earn the victory.
Wide receiver Kendall Stewart ran in a 22-yard touchdown on a jet sweep in third-overtime to give the Bears the lead. Missouri State came up with a sack on fourth-down when the Leathernecks took over to come away with the victory.
Here’s what happened Saturday:
Huslig fumbles, WIU scores touchdown
After a 50-minute rain delay, the Bears forced a three-and-out on the Leathernecks’ first drive of the game. Defensive end Matt McClellan sacked Kevin Johnson on third down to force a punt.
Missouri State’s opening drive looked as if it was going to establish a ground game. Starting quarterback Peyton Huslig was blown up on a read-option for a loss of six, making it a second-and-long from the WIU 33. Two plays later, kicker Parker Lacina missed a 41-yard field goal.
Western Illinois went three-and-out on its second drive with McClellan blowing up a third-down play while crashing down the line to force a punt.
With the ball at the MSU 18, Huslig dropped back on third-and-13. WIU linebacker LaCale London went untouched on a blitz and stripped Huslig. Defensive lineman Kyle Williams picked up the ball at the Bears’ 10 and ran it in for an easy score.
WIU extends lead during ugly start
Offense was hard to come by early when the Bears finished the first half with 41 yards to the Leathernecks’ 27, but Western Illinois still held the 7-0 lead after one.
Huslig had a few near turnovers as he started the game 3-of-11 for only 26 yards.
Western Illinois backed MSU up to its own 14 and forced a three-and-out. The Leathernecks took over at the MSU 49 for their best field position of the game.
Big plays have haunted the Bears this season, and it wasn’t any different on Saturday.
WIU quarterback Kevin Johnson threw a ball deep down the field to an open Tony Tate along the sideline. Tate was able to run in for the touchdown to give the Leathernecks a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Bears finally put together a good drive
Bad football continued to plague the first half, but Missouri State put together a good drive to make it a one-score game.
MSU had 41 total yards entering its final drive of the opening half and went on a seven-play, 72-yard drive to score a touchdown.
The Bears moved into Western Illinois territory after a pass interference call on a Huslig throw down the middle of the field put the Bears at the WIU 40. The following play, D.J. Frost got loose for a 20-yard run.
Two plays later, Huslig found an open Thomas in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown connection to cut WIU’s lead to 14-7 with 1:16 remaining in the half.
Bears catch a break before half
Missouri State didn’t go into halftime without a scare, but linebacker Tyler Lovelace made a play to make sure the Bears didn’t go into halftime down two scores.
Western Illinois drove down to the Bears’ 14-yard line after a simple screen pass to Leatherneck tailback Max Norris went for 43 yards and he swerved away from Bears defenders.
On third-and-six from the MSU 10, Johnson tried forcing a pass into the middle of the end zone and Lovelace came away with his second interception of the season. He returned the ball to the MSU 40 to keep it a seven-point game.
The half ended much more entertaining than it started. MSU ended the first half with 132 total yards while allowing 182.
Huslig ended the first half 7-of-17 for 84 yards, a touchdown and a fumble. Johnson was 8-of-15 for 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Promising MSU drive ends in nothing
Missouri State looked as if it had a little bit of a rhythm on offense following its touchdown drive to end the first half, but a penalty and a missed field goal kept them from cutting into WIU’s lead.
A pair of passes down the field to an open Thomas gave the Bears the ball in WIU territory. A few nice runs by Donovan Daniels gave the Bears the ball at the WIU 30.
On first-and-10, Daniels ran for a gain of four to the WIU 19 but Thomas was called for a holding penalty on the outside. MSU couldn’t recover from first-and-long and settled for a field goal attempt.
Lacina missed his second field goal of the game with his kick getting partially blocked on a 41-yard attempt.
Missouri State ties game in early fourth
Missouri State held Western Illinois to just 11 total yards in the third quarter to stay in the game in the third quarter.
On the Bears’ second drive of the second half, the Bears tied the game on a slow, methodical drive.
The Bears went 93 yards on 13 plays to tie the game at 14 with 14:10 left in the fourth quarter.
Huslig found an open Kendall Stewart down the middle of the field for a 35-yard gain on third-and-nine early in the drive. Two plays later, he hit Armand Baker for a 13-yard pickup to move into WIU territory.
MSU drove down to the WIU eight, where the Bears were faced with fourth-and-one. Bears head coach Dave Steckel opted to go for it.
Instead of attempting to pick up just a yard, the Bears went play-action and had Huslig rollout. He found an open Stewart in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.
Bears take lead on deep bomb
After exchanging a pair of empty drives, Western Illinois turned the ball over and the Bears took advantage.
Johnson attempted a deep throw to an open receiver, but he didn’t have the arm to get it to him. Defensive back Zack Sanders made up lost ground and intercepted the pass.
Four plays later, it was Huslig who threw a ball deep down the field, but his pass was able to reach his receiver. Huslig connected with a wide-open Tyler Currie for a 41-yard touchdown and the lead with 7:51 remaining.
Western Illinois ties game
Western Illinois changed quarterbacks following the Bears’ go-ahead score and he was able to lead the Leathernecks down the field to tie the game.
Connor Sampson hit passes of 24, 20, 11 and 10 to drive down the field.
On third-and-11, Sampson found an open receiver on a crosser. He appeared to come up short of the first down, but MSU’s Jalyn Henderson was penalized for a personal foul after the play to give the Leathernecks an automatic first down.
Missouri State kept the Leathernecks out of the end zone for the first three plays, but on fourth-and-one, Max Norris was pushed in for the game-tying score.
The Bears couldn’t cross midfield on an attempted game-winning drive and were forced to punt. Western Illinois ran one play to run out the clock in regulation to force overtime.
Missouri State loses the toss, starts with the ball
On the first play of overtime, Huslig floated a pass to Currie for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Lacina made his extra point to put the Bears up 28-21.
Western Illinois needs a touchdown to force second overtime
MSU linebacker McNeece Egbim made an open-field tackle while sniffing out a screen pass on third-down for a six-yard loss. An incomplete pass and a false start to follow gave WIU a fourth-and-12.
Sampson hit an open George Wahee for an 18-yard completion and the first down. Three plays later, Norris punched in a three-yard touchdown and the Leathernecks hit the extra point to force a second overtime.
Leathernecks start with the ball in second-overtime
Sampson barely missed a wide-open running back wh broke free on a wheel route.
McClellan sacked Sampson on third down to force a field goal. Western Illinois connected on the 45-yard kick to go up three.
Missouri State needs a field goal for another overtime, touchdown for a win
Huslig threw a pass away on third-and-10 but was hit after the play for a roughing the passer call and a first-down-and-goal from the six-yard line.
Missouri State failed to get into the end zone following the gifted first down, and Steckel opted to tie the game with a field goal. Steckel called a timeout and looked as if he was icing his own kicker but Lacina’s short kick went in to force a third overtime.
Missouri State starts with ball in third overtime
On the second play of third-overtime, Stewart took a jet-sweep and tiptoed along the sideline for a 22-yard touchdown run.
In third-overtime, you have to go for a two-point conversion. On a rollout, Huslig threw a short pass and it wasn’t enough to give the Bears an eight-point lead.
Western Illinois needs a touchdown to tie, two-point conversion to win
On fourth-and-13, the Missouri State defensive line blew up the middle of the WIU offensive line to get to Sampson for a sack and the victory.
What Stec said
Quotes courtesy of Steckel’s postgame interview with Art Hains
“Our kids did a great job of keep playing. That big sack at the end was great. You have to tip your hats to the offense because the offense did a great job at adjusting the offensive-line and they did a great job. We settled them down and the kids did great at picking up the different schemes.” — Steckel on the game
“I thought we were dominating the game the whole time except we made the blunder when they came out in a 3-2-6 coverage. We gave up a sack and a fumble. The kids were resilient and kept their focus. Then again, a 49-yard pass down the sideline and it was just focus and eyes. It was hurting us in the past. We gave one up, let that go and refocused and went on to the next play.” — Steckel on bouncing back after falling behind 14-0.
“It feels good. I want the kids to enjoy it and reap the rewards of what we just accomplished. Tomorrow, we have to let it go and get on to the next game.” — Steckel on getting a win
- QB Peyton Huslig – 28-of-44, 315 yards, four touchdowns, one fumble. Seven rushes for negative-six yards.
- RB Donovan Daniels – 14 attempts, 40 yards
- WR Lorenzo Thomas – Seven catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns
- WR Kendall Stewart – Five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Three rushes for 22 yards and a touchdown
- QB Kevin Johnson – 8-of-19 for 136 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
- QB Connor Sampson – 9-of-14 for 95 yards
- RB Max Norris – 17 rushes for 40 yards and two touchdowns. Three receptions for 63 yards.
- WR Tony Tate – Three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards – MSU 429 WIU 336
- Passing yards – MSU 315 WIU 231
- Rushing yards – MSU 114 WIU 105
- Turnovers – MSU 1 WIU 2
- 3rd Downs – MSU 6-18 WIU 4-17
- 1Q 7:13 — Peyton Huslig strip-sacked. Western Illinois’ Kyle Williams recovers and returns ball 10 yards for a touchdown. WIU 7-0.
- 2Q 12:27 — Kevin Johnson 41-yard touchdown pass to Tony Tate. WIU 14-0.
- 2Q 1:16 — Peyton Huslig 18-yard touchdown pass to Lorenzo Thomas. WIU 14-7.
- 4Q 14:10 — Peyton Huslig eight-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Stewart. 14-14.
- 4Q 7:51 — Peyton Huslig 41-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Currie. MSU 21-14.
- 4Q 1:25 — Max Norris one-yard touchdown run. 21-21
- 1OT — Peyton Huslig 25-yard touchdown pass to Lorenzo Thomas. MSU 28-21.
- 1OT — Max Norris two-yard touchdown run. 28-28.
- 2OT — Nathan Erickson 45-yard field goal. WIU 31-28.
- 2OT — Parker Lacina 20-yard field goal. 28-28.
- 3OT — Kendall Stewart 22-yard touchdown run. Failed 2pt. MSU 37-31.
Missouri State returns to Springfield for its second home game of the season when it hosts South Dakota next week.
South Dakota is currently on a two-game winning streak after starting the year 0-3. The Coyotes beat Northern Colorado 14-6 for their first win but blew out Indiana State 38-0 on Saturday.
Indiana State is a team with postseason aspirations but took a big this past week after losing its starting quarterback for the season. Still, the Coyotes appear to be on the rise after a slow start to the season.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on Twitter where his handle is @WyattWheeler_NL.