Kingjack Washington rushed for a career high 133 yards, and the Bears collected five rushing touchdowns to defeat Youngstown State, 42-28, in Missouri Valley Football Conference play here Saturday, improving to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the league.
It was Missouri State’s third homecoming victory in four years and just the team’s second win in 13 meetings with Youngstown State.
After first-half rushing touchdowns by sophomores Cody Kirby and Stephen Johnston gave the Bears an early 14-0 lead. Youngstown State tied the game just before the half, 14-14.
"That’s typical Youngstown State competitive football," Allen said. "We punted one time in the first half and had one turnover, but (YSU) found a way to get back in the game, and I had to tell our offense at halftime to keep doing the things they were doing."
Kirby was 6-for-7 for 35 yards in the first 30 minutes, pushing him over the 2,500 yard mark for his career and making him the youngest Bears’ signal caller to achieve that milestone.
In the second half, the Bears recaptured the lead for good on Johnston’s 38-yard run with 11:58 left in the third quarter, capping a 67-yard touchdown drive. On MSU’s next possession, Kirby culminated a 16-play, 80-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run to build MSU’s lead to 28-14.
YSU (2-5, 1-2) got a one-yard touchdown run from Jabari Scott with 29 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 28-21. Scott finished with 97 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Penguins.
However, the Bears answered again, marching 59 yards in just over two-and-a-half minutes, when Jeff Sargent made a physical catch and run from 12 yards out for his first career touchdown on a pass from Kirby. The touchdown drive was the third in three possessions for MSU.
After the teams exchanged fourth-quarter punts, Washington scored a touchdown from eight yards out to build the Bears lead to 42-21 late in the final period. He finished with career highs in carries (23) and yards (133). Earlier in the game, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for his career, making him the fourth MSU sophomore to reach that milestone. Johnston also had a career high with 87 yards on 13 carries.
Scott scored his third touchdown of the game for the Penguins on an 11-yard pass reception at the 2:00 mark. YSU recovered the ensuing onside kick, but MSU senior Jeremy Dawson came up with an interception on the MSU 40 with 1:04 left to seal the win.
Kirby finished with 127 yards on 11-for-14 passing and 183 yards total offense.
The victory for Missouri State was bitter sweet, according to Allen, as the Missouri State family lost a long-time friend with the passing of Robert W. Plaster, for whom the Bears’ home facility is named, early Saturday morning.
"We lost a good friend today," Allen said. "Mr. Plaster was a great friend to Missouri State University. He would have been proud of his Bears today."
Missouri State travels to Normal, Ill., next week for a 2 p.m. kickoff against Illinois State in Valley Football action.