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Edited press release from Missouri State Athletics:
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- It was a tale of two halves here Saturday for the Missouri State Bears, but in the end it was the league's defending Offensive Player of the Year who made the difference as Shakir Bell carried Indiana State to a 31-17 win in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
Bell collected 113 yards on 25 carries, including a key fourth-quarter touchdown to put the game out of reach. ISU improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the league.
The Bears (0-6, 0-3 MVFC) turned the ball over three times in the first half and surrendered a long kickoff return to fall behind 14-7 at the intermission. But reserve quarterback Kierra Harris jumpstarted the MSU offense early in the third quarter with a pair of quick scoring drives to take the lead.
Harris led the Bears to scoring drives on their first possessions of the second half. The first a 38-yard field goal by Austin Witmer at the 8:18 mark, set up by a partially-blocked punt on the Sycamores' first drive of the third quarter. The Bears covered just 21 yards on the ensuing 7-play drive, but pulled within 14-10 of the lead.
The Bears forced ISU into a three-and-out on the home team's next series to take over in good field position at their own 44. On second-and-10 from there, Harris hit Julian Burton in stride to the Indiana State 9 for a 47-yard completion. Three players later, the sophomore QB hit Matt Thayer for a 2-yard pass for the go-ahead score at the 4:53 mark as MSU led 17-14.
But ISU bounced back with a 75-yard drive of its own. Michael Mardis had receptions of 31 and 16 yards on the six-play scoring possession, and ISU got helped by a facemask penalty against the Bears to set the Sycamores up at the 16. The next play, Mike Perish hit Mardis from 16 yards out on a misdirection play to put the home club back ahead 21-17 at the 1:23 mark of the third.
After forcing the Bears into their fourth punt of the afternoon, the Sycamore turned to Bell to seal the win. Bell took the game on his shoulders and collected 67 ground yards on 8 rushes on the next drive, including a 24-yard touchdown run at the 9:23 mark to put the home club on top for good, 28-17. The 24-yard score was Bell's first carry of more than 9 yards on the day, but it proved fatal for the visitors.
The Bears went three-and-out on their next series and punted the ball back with 8:27 to go. Indiana State then took advantage of a running into the punter penalty to sustain the drive at the 6:45 mark then converted a pair of fourth-down conversions to keep the clock running and drove all the way to the MSU 9-yard line before settling for a 26-yard Tanner Fritschle field goal with 2:22 to go.
The Bears were led by Harris who finished 12-for-15 for 131 yards with a touchdown and a late interception on the team's final series. Heaston had 17 carries for 38 yards, and Dorian Buford had 8 receptions for 56 yards.
Turnovers were the story of the first half with the teams combining for four interceptions and five turnovers in all.
The Bears had the game's first score, covering 67 yards on just eight plays before Ashton Glaser punched it in from one yard out to give the Bears a 7-0 lead. MSU was 2-for-2 on third down on the drive as Cadarrius Dotson snagged 48-yard reception, and Matt Thayer pulled in an 8-yard completion in the end zone to set up the eventual score at the 5:38 mark of the opening quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Sycamores bounced off the canvas with a 93-yard kickoff return by Tanner Riley to knot the score 7-7.
MSU seemed to have things back on track on the next series when Vernon Scott took a second-down rush 25 yards across midfield and into Sycamores' territory. However, Scott lost the handle, coughing it up at the ISU 43 with 4:56 to go. Sophomore QB Mike Perish then took the reigns and engineered a six-play scoring drive for the home club to put ISU on top 14-7. A 26-yard strike from Perish to Demory Lawshe capped the 57-yard scoring drive that took just two-and-a-half minutes.
In the second quarter, the turnover bug began biting both clubs. Backed up on its own 11 after a punt, MSU got 6 yards from Heaston on first down. On the next play, Glaser was picked off at the 33 by Calvin Burnett to give the Sycammores another scoring chance. Fortunately for MSU, Christian Hoffman -- making just his second start of the season -- stepped up with an interception of his own for the Bears to halt the drive.
Late in the second after forcing ISU into its second three-and-out series of the half, the Bears crossed midfield again Tre Kelley and Ryan Heaston led the Bears to the ISU 49. On third-and-five, Glaser aired one deep for Burton that was intercepted by Burnett who returned it 36 yards to the ISU 46 with 2:46 to play in the second. Again, the Bears returned the favor with a pick by Jason Fitch on third down at the MSU 34 with 52 seconds left in the half.
Kierra Harris entered the game at quarterback and got the Bears to the ISU 32. Austin Witmer came on for a 49-yard field goal attempt with the wind at his back, but missed the attempt wide right as time expired. Harris remained in the game the rest of the way.
The Bears return home next Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against South Dakota at Plaster Field in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.
Glaser finished the half 10-for-12 through the air for 102 yards and a pair of interceptions with one rushing score. In his return to the starting lineup at receiver, Cadarrius Dotson has 2 receptions for 48 yards while Scott and Heaston have combined for 69 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Indiana State's Perish is just 6-for-15 through the air for 71 yards but has a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Shakir Bell has been kept in check on the ground, carrying 7 times for 27 yards.
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