An 11-yard touchdown pass from Cody Kirby to Chase Mejia with 2:32 left in the game highlighted the Bears’ only substantial drive of the second half in a disappointing 43-13 loss to Missouri Valley Football Conference newcomer South Dakota State.
Kirby’s 11-yard strike to Mejia was his second TD pass of the game, extending his streak to 9 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass and capped a 60-yard drive that took eight plays. Kirby finished with 165 yards passing on 21 completions and 32 attempts.
MSU dropped to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the MVFC, and South Dakota State improved to 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the league.
The Jackrabbits got on the board early and built a 19-0 lead with 8:14 to go in the second quarter. SDSU took the game’s opening possession down to the Bears’ three yard line before settling for a 20-yard field goal by Peter Reifenrath. The six-play possession was sparked by a 63-yard pass from Ryan Barry to JaRon Harris off a tip and near-interception by MSU’s Chris Farrar that Harris reeled in and carried deep into the redzone.
Reifenrath added a 29-yard field goal with 1:45 left in the opening quarter to give SDSU a 6-0 lead. The Bears’ defense was whistled for two third-down offsides penalties on the 16-play, 79-yard drive, helping keep the possession alive for 7:28.
The Bears were outgained 156-45 in the first quarter, but ran just eight offensive plays.
South Dakota State kept the pressure on the Bears’ defense early in the second quarter. First, on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Barry to Glen Fox, turning a failed MSU fourth-down conversion at the Jackrabbits’ 35 into a 6-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. The two-point conversion failed to make it a 12-0 game. After a short Bears’ punt, Kyle Minett ran the first play of their next possession for 56 yards and a touchdown to make it 19-0 with 8:14 to play in the half.
Chris Farrar blocked his second field goal of the season with just under 7:00 left in the second quarter as Reifenrath attempted a 52-yard field attempt. Farrar came off the edge to deflect the kick, giving the ball back to the Bears at their own 33.
Bears’ quarterback Cody Kirby took advantage of the momentum, with a three-yard touchdown pass from Kirby to Chris Geisz on the final play of Missouri State’s next drive. It was Geisz’s fourth touchdown catch of the season, and it put the exclamation mark on a 14-play, 67-yard drive that consumed 5:56. The extra point attempt by Matt Hottelman missed wide left – his first miss in 26 attempts this season – to make it a 19-6 game at the half.
After the Bears went three-and-out on their opening drive of the second half and pinned the Jackrabbits in at their own 26, Minett was able to open up the SDSU rushing attack again, getting the bulk of action on an eight-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 15-yard TD pass from Berry to Harris with 9:20 left in the third. The PAT failed, and South Dakota State built a 25-6 lead. SDSU scored again with 3:38 remaining in the third period with Harris’ second touchdown of the day, and a successful two-point conversion made it 33-6.
A Tyler Duffy touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter, a one-yard run, built the SDSU lead to 40-6.
MSU’s offensive woes continued in the fourth, as the Bears managed 13 plays in their first four possessions combined. A season-long 62-yard punt from true freshman Jordan Chiles after their first drive of the final period stalled to pin the Jackrabbits in at their own six. However, SDSU drove 93 yards to the MSU one before settling for an 18-yard field goal with 4:29 left to lead 43-6.
Missouri State gave up a season-high 580 yards total offense, and finished with just 35 ground yards on 20 attempts. Kirby completed passes to 11 receivers including 4 to Geisz.
The Bears travel to Northern Iowa next Saturday for a 4:05 p.m. kickoff against the Panthers.