Missouri State dropped its third straight game and was shut out for the first time since Sept. 2, 2000 in a 42-0 loss at Northern Iowa here in Missouri Valley Football Conference action Saturday. The Bears fell to 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the league.
After No. 4 Northern Iowa built a 19-0 halftime lead, Corey Lewis and the Panthers picked up where they left off with a one-yard touchdown run on their second possession of the third quarter. The drive consumed 57 yards in nine plays and helped coach Mark Farley’s team to a 26-0 lead with 6:18 left in the third.
Lewis added another TD score with 53 seconds left in the third on a three-yard touchdown dive that built UNI’s lead to 33-0. Lewis’ scored topped off a 72-yard touchdown drive.
The Bears were pinned deep in their own territory on their final drive of the third quarter and were forced to punt for the ninth time. But an errant snap sailed over punter Jordan Chiles’ head for a safety to make it 35-0. The Bears ran 12 plays in the third quarter for -1 net yards.
MSU drove into UNI territory for the first time midway through the fourth, moving to the Panthers’ 33 before a Cody Kirby pass was intercepted by Craig James and returned 75 yards for a touchdown. It was just Kirby’s fifth pick of the year and first in his last 74 pass attempts. The interception return made it 42-0 and handed Missouri State its first shutout defeat in 94 games, last being blanked at Arkansas in the 2000 season opener.
Kirby was 14-for-26 for 78 yards for Missouri State and had a nine-game streak with at least one touchdown pass snapped. It was his lowest passing output since settling for 25 yards at Oklahoma State earlier this season.
Jeff Sargent carried twice for 15 yards to lead MSU’s rushing attack – his first carries of the season, while Chase Mejia (36 yards) and Clay Harbor (17) each had four receptions.
Lewis finished with 188 yards on 24 carries for UNI (8-2, 6-1), while Pat Grace rushed for two touchdowns and passed for 141 yards to pace UNI’s attack.
After forcing the Panthers to punt on their opening drive, the Bears’ defense held strong through a 12-play drive on UNI’s next possession. On that drive, a great goal-line tackle by Skylar Smith was negated one play later when quarterback Grace slipped into the endzone for a one-yard score to cap the 78-yard march. The extra point attempt failed when Trent Flander’s snap went over the head of Panthers’ holder Ben Schmidt and the Bears were unable to return the loose ball ultimately recovered by the home team.
The Panthers did not slow down and extended their lead to 13-0 on an 8-yard touchdown run by Derrick Law that culminated a 65-yard drive that took seven plays.
UNI outgained the Bears 151-18 in the opening quarter.
Late in the second quarter, a key fourth-and-five for UNI at the Bears’ 32 resulted in a 23 yard pass completion from Grace to Josh Collins after which a Missouri State late hit put the ball first and goal at the four. Grace carried into the endzone two plays later for the third UNI score of the half. After another missed PAT, UNI led 19-0 with 2:10 remaining in the half. The 11-play drive consumed 69 yards.
MSU also got a 64-yard punt from freshman Jordan Chiles on his sixth on final punt of the first half. There were no turnovers in the first half by either team in the first half. The Bears were 0-for-11 on third down in the game.
MSU returns home next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff against North Dakota State (5-4, 3-3) in their final home contest of the season.