SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Despite a second-straight standout performance from its defense, Missouri State came up on the short end of a 29-6 decision against No. 11 UNI Saturday afternoon at Robert W. Plaster Stadium. The Panthers turned a pair of special teams turnovers into nine points as part of a 19-0 second-quarter surge that proved to be the difference in the Bears’ 2019 Homecoming contest.
UNI (5-3, 3-1 MVFC) stifled the Missouri State offense, blanking the Bears through three quarters while allowing just 74 yards of offense and four first downs over the first 45 minutes of the contest.
Will McElvain passed for 238 yards to lead the Panthers offense, rushing for one touchdown and throwing for another as part of UNI’s second-period outburst. The redshirt freshman quarterback connected with Valley receiving leading Isaiah Weston on a pair of long scoring passes, including a 70-yarder late in the third quarter that stretched the margin to 29 points.
Missouri State’s defense rose to the occasion against a Top 25 foe for the second week in a row, limiting the Panthers to 315 yards of total offense and 12 first downs for the game. The Bears shut down the UNI ground game, holding the Panthers to 77 yards—a season-low by an MSU opponent—and just 2-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts.
The loss marked the sixth-consecutive home loss for Missouri State (1-6, 1-3 MVFC), matching a program-record by the Bears as a Division I program.
The Bears defense provided an early lift, stopping the Panthers on a three-and-out opening possession, before a personal foul penalty on the ensuing UNI punt gave the visitors new life. MSU dialed up another stop, however, forcing a second punt attempt after a Claudio Martin tackle for a five-yard loss and a Kam Carter pass break-up on third down.
Missouri State moved the first down marker two times on its opening possession, as Peyton Huslig connected on his first four pass attempts. The senior signal-caller found Mauricio Chio for a 14-yard gain, then hit Armand Baker on a 12-yard completion on third down to move the ball into UNI territory.
But UNI put the defensive clamps on MSU’s ground game throughout the opening half, including back-to-back stops for losses on Huslig rushes to force a Brendan Withrow punt.
After the two defenses dominated the opening 15 minutes of play, UNI broke the scoring seal 11 seconds into the second quarter on a 49-yard Matthew Cook field goal that capped a 13-play, 50-yard drive for the Panthers. McElvain completed four consecutive passes to four different receivers, including a 12-yard toss to Suni Lane that set the Panthers up with a first down at the MSU 29.
The first of two critical special teams miscues promptly fueled another Panther scoring opportunity as a fumble on a muffed punt return gave UNI the ball at the MSU 20. Once again, the Missouri State defense responded, stopping the Panthers on third and goal to force a 22-yard Cook field goal at the 8:10 mark.
A second Bears fumble on the ensuing kickoff fueled another Panther scoring chance, with McElvain carrying the ball in from six yards out two plays later to make it a 12-0 contest. The UNI quarterback gashed the Bears once more with just under four minutes left in the half, threading the ball through a pair of defenders to Weston for a 46-yard touchdown that gave his club a 19-0 advantage.
UNI kept the pressure on the MSU offense in the second half, holding the Bears to a single first down and just 28 yards in the third period. After Cook drilled his third field goal of the day from 38 yards out to open the second-half scoring, McElvain’s 70-yard strike to Weston with 4:12 left in the quarter made it a 29-0 game.
MSU engineered its first scoring drive in over 122 minutes of clock time spanning three games early in the fourth quarter. Huslig complete four straight passes, including a 16-yarder to Jordan Murray and a 20-yard toss to Antwan Woods, to spark the 15-play march that spanned more than eight minutes and 90 yards. After connecting with Tyler Currie for eight yards on third and seven at the UNI 25, Huslig found Woods for a 17-yard scoring pass and catch—the 33rd passing touchdown of Huslig’s MSU career.
The Bears out-gained the Panthers by a 95-20 margin in total offense in the fourth period, with Huslig going 8-of-13 for 95 yards in the quarter.
Currie led all MSU receivers with four receptions for 31 yards, while Woods reeled in two passes for 37 yards. Angelo Garbutt paced MSU’s strong defensive effort with seven tackles, and McNeece Egbim added six, including four solo stops.
Weston tallied a game-high five receptions for 157 yards, and Aaron Graham matched his total with five catches for 51 yards. Austin Evans led the UNI defense with seven stops, while Jared Brinkman registered six tackles and 1.5 of the Panthers’ five total sacks of Huslig.
Next up, the Bears will host another nationally-ranked foe at Plaster Stadium when South Dakota State pays Springfield a visit next Saturday (Nov. 3) for a 2 p.m. contest.
Postgame Notes: Missouri State dropped to 215-174-12 all-time at Plaster Stadium…The Bears dropped to 5-35 all-time vs. UNI with their 14th straight loss to the Panthers dating back to 2006…The Bears suffered their sixth consecutive home loss dating back to an Oct. 13, 2018 setback to Indiana State; the home skid marks their longest during the Dave Steckel era and matches the program record for consecutive home losses during the Division I era (Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 22, 2012)…Peyton Huslig made his 29th consecutive start for the Bears at quarterback; on the defensive side of the ball, McNeece Egbim logged his 25th start in a row at linebacker; Egbim topped the 300-tackle mark for his career, finishing the day with six tackles…Huslig completed at least one pass to 11 different receivers; with his fourth-quarter scoring pass to Antwan Woods, Huslig moved into a tie Kierra Harris and A.J. Porter for the No. 4 spot on the Bears’ career passing touchdown list with 33, three shy of Jeremy Hoog and Mitch Ware, who share the No. 2 position on the chart…In allowing just 77 rushing yards, MSU’s defense enjoyed its best day against the run since last Sept. 6, when it permitted just 56 rushing yards against Lincoln; UNI’s 315 total yards also marked the Bears’ lowest single-game allowance since the same game against Lincoln, when it permitted just 264 yards.
Courtesy of Missouri State Athletics Communications