Western Illinois used smash-mouth football to accumulate 459 rushing yards and took advantage of several first-half mistakes by the Missouri State Bears to secure a 33-21 win at Plaster Field in Springfield in MSU’s Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.
After fumbling a punt inside their own 25 yard line, the Bears fell behind early in the first quarter when WIU’s Herb Donaldson turned the mistake into six points on a 15-yard touchdown run. The Bears were able to drive inside the Leathernecks’ five yard line midway late in the first quarter, marching 76 yards to the WIU four yard line before a Tyler Carey interception in the endzone gave WIU the ball back. Nine plays later, Donaldson scored again on a 38-yard run to build Western’s lead to 13-0.
Dre Gibbs tacked on a 41-yard touchdown run with 3:21 left in the second quarter to make it 20-0 at half. The two Missouri State turnovers in the first half led to 14 Western points.
The Bears came out of the locker room in the third quarter and struck quickly, holding WIU to three-and-out on its first possession before the Bears’ first play with a 67-yard touchdown strike to make it 20-7. Fuselier finished with a career-best five catches for 92 yards.
On the next possession, Western drove to the MSU 15 when the Bears recovered a fumble in the end zone to give the ball back to Missouri State. Kirby then engineered an 11-play, 80-yard drive on the ensuing series to make it 20-14.
However, MSU’s hopes took a significant hit on the next WIU drive. Donaldson capped a 57-yard march at the 7:34 mark of the fourth quarter on a four-yard touchdown carry to help the Leathernecks expand their lead to double-digits, 26-14. WIU later extended that advantage to 33-14 on another four-yard touchdown carry by Donaldson soon after.
Donaldson, who finished with 273 yards, became just the second Bears’ opponent to score four touchdowns at Plaster Field, joining Pierre Rembert of Illinois State who had six against the Bears on November 5, 2005. WIU’s rushing total was the most against the Bears this season.
Cody Kirby finished with 246 passing yards, the fifth 200-yard game of his career, on 20-for-34 passing. The crowd of 13,020 was the largest Plaster Field gathering since October 23, 2004 when the Bears played Southern Illinois on homecoming.
MSU (1-3, 0-1) hosts Youngstown State (2-4, 1-1) next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on Missouri State’s homecoming.