TERRE HAUTE, Ind. –
Using a balanced offensive attack and a second-half shutout by its defense, Missouri State spoiled No. 24 Indiana State's homecoming with a 45-24 victory Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Malik Earl
hauled in a career-high 11 receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns, while Dylan Cole
sparked a resurgent MSU defense to pave the way to the Bears' first win over a ranked opponent since 2013.
Missouri State's offense rolled up a season-high 473 yards, while the Bears' defense limited ISU's high-powered offense to 116 second-half yards while forcing a trio of crucial turnovers in the fourth quarter to seal the outcome. Cole finished the day with 13 tackles to go along with a key interception and a forced fumble late in the contest.
turned in a career performance for the Bears as well, completing 24-of-35 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead eight-yard scoring toss to Earl with 1:44 to play in the third quarter. Earl's 11 receptions on the day matched two former Bears—Jason Cannon and Clay Harbor—for the second-best single-game total in program history.
After the two squads traded offensive blows in a see-saw first half that featured 566 combined yards of total offense, it would be the MSU defense that stole the show in the second stanza. The Bears forced a season-high five turnovers—including four in the second half—and held the ISU rushing attack to 38 net yards on 25 carries.
Lambert's third touchdown pass of the day put the finishing touches on a 14-play drive that chewed up over six minutes—both figures marking season highs for the MSU offense.
Given the lead, Cole and the Bears' defense delivered the knockout blow, as Cole stepped in front of an Isaac Harker pass at the ISU 31 to set up another key MSU score. Calan Crowder
, who rushed for a season-best 131 yards, put the game out of reach with a hard-earned five-yard TD run to make it a 38-24 game with 12:47 to play, then stretched the lead to 21 with a 29-yard burst with just under four minutes left.
delivered in the clutch with a strip sack of Harker to thwart a Sycamore drive at the MSU 23, and Cole punched the ball free from Jaquan Keys' grasp moments after Crowder's third touchdown.
The dominant stretch run for Missouri State (3-1, 1-0 MVFC) followed an inauspicious start that saw the Sycamores put seven points on the board just seconds into the contest. ISU return man Lonnell Brown set the stage for a back-and-forth first quarter by bringing the opening kickoff back 58 yards to the MSU 38. On the first play from scrimmage, Harker found Miles Thompson in the end zone to put ISU on the board just 18 seconds into the game.
Missouri State responded with a methodical 11-play, 75-yard drive of its own that was highlighted by the a big run from Jason Randall
and the passing of Lambert. Randall ripped off a 20-yard rush to move the Bears into ISU territory, while Lambert completed all six of his pass attempts for 36 yards, including a nine-yard scoring strike to Adam St. Peter
that pulled the Bears even at 7-7 with 10:16 left in the period.
Next, the MSU defense came through with a key stop, as Jared Beshore
helped snuff out a Sycamore drive by stopping Roland Genesy for a one-yard loss on a third-and-one attempt.
Lambert continued his hot start on the ensuing drive, connecting with three different receivers for six more completions to set up another MSU scoring opportunity. The senior quarterback's 18-yard completion to Earl moved the ball to the ISU 11 and marked his 12th consecutive completion to start the game, before Zach Drake
's 22-yard field goal capped the 12-play drive.
It would be Harker's turn to swing the momentum in the direction of the home team on ISU's next possession, as the sophomore completed 7-of-8 passes for 57 yards on the drive. Genesy then put the Sycamores in front with a four-yard burst to the end zone, making it a 14-10 game with just two seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Bears used a series of big plays—both offensive and defensive—to seize the upper hand with a pair of touchdowns in a span of just 97 seconds. On 2nd and 10 at the MSU 36, Crowder broke free and sprinted untouched to pay dirt for a 64-yard touchdown and a 17-14 Bears lead.
After Harker completed a 24-yard pass to Dimitri Taylor to move the Sycamores into MSU territory, the Bears defense made another critical stand to force a turnover on downs. On fourth-and-one at the 29, Isbell brought down Taylor for a two-yard loss, and Lambert quickly made ISU pay, hitting Earl in stride for a 69-yard scoring pass that handed the visitors a 24-14 lead with 13:05 to play in the half.
MSU appeared to be poised to inflict further damage on its next offensive possession, but back-to-back sacks—just the second and third allowed by the Bears this season—compounded by a Lambert fumble set up the Sycamores with a short field at the MSU 11. Two plays later, Genesy carried it in from three yards out for his second touchdown of the half.
ISU tacked on a 39-yard Jerry Nunez field goal in the closing moments of the half to pull even at 24-24 heading into intermission.
Harker paced the ISU offense by completing 35-of-52 passes for 344 yards, while Robert Tonyan reeled in six receptions for 58 yards to go along with Thompson's 83 receiving yards.
The Bears return home next Saturday for a 2 p.m. MVFC contest against No. 1 North Dakota State, during which Missouri State will honor its 1966 MIAA championship squad. Tickets for the game, which start at just $10 for an adult bleacher seat, are available online at MissouriStateBears.com/Tickets, by calling (417) 836-7678, or visiting the Old Missouri Bank Ticket Window at JQH Arena during normal box office hours.
: MSU recorded scoring drives of 11, 12 and 14 plays, marking its three longest drives of the season in terms of plays … The Bears have scored a touchdown on their opening drive in three of their four games … Brodie Lambert
's three touchdown passes represent his first of the season and doubled his MSU career total to six … Lambert completed his first 12 passes of the game, matching a pair of Mitch Ware performances for the No. 2 streak of consecutive completions in MSU history … Lambert and ISU quarterback Isaac Harker completed their first 19 combined passes of the game … The Bears' 24 first-half points matched their first-half total vs. Southwestern (Sept. 1) for their largest offensive output in the opening half this season … Malik Earl
established new career highs for catches (11), receiving yards (161), receiving TD's (2) and rushing yards (19); Earl's 11 receptions equaled Cannon (10/21/95 at Western Illinois) and Harbor (11/14/09 at Southern Illinois) for the second-best single-game total in program history. … MSU's victory marked its first over a ranked foe since Oct. 19, 2013, when it knocked off No. 15 South Dakota State (35-21); it also represented the Bears' first road win over a ranked team since Oct. 20, 2012, which was a 24-17 win at No. 11 Illinois State … The victory also gave head coach Dave Steckel
his first Valley win and snapped a 13-game MVFC losing streak for MSU dating back to an Oct. 18, 2014 win over South Dakota.