After a slow start, Missouri State caught Northwestern State in the season opener. (photo/Gary Hardaman, NSU Athletics)

After a slow start, Missouri State caught Northwestern State in the season opener. (photo/Gary Hardaman, NSU Athletics)

Missouri State overcame a 17-point halftime deficit Thursday night, scoring touchdowns on three straight series coming down the stretch, the last one a 13-yard Kierra Harris to Gannon Sinclair score with 5:15 to go as the visiting Bears stunned Northwestern State 34-27 in a season-opening non-conference football matchup.

After NSU quarterback Zach Adkins passed for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half to stake the Demons to 17-point leads on two different occasions, the home team picked up right where it left off to start the second half, as the Demons moved the ball inside the Bears’ 5-yard line, but freshman Colby Isbell stripped Garrett Atzenweiler of the football at the goal line, changing the momentum.  Missouri State drove 97 yards in 14 plays and got back into the game on a 15-yard Harris toss to Eric Christophel.

“We had a bunch of chances to win that game, and it got away from us with mistakes and bad breaks here and there,” said Demons’ coach Jay Thomas. “You have to give Missouri State a bunch of credit for hanging in there, making plays when they had to. We dominated for 2 ½ quarters and didn’t have enough to show for it. They fought hard and turned the game their way.”

After NSU’s Chris Moore booted his second field goal of the game–a 44-yarder–just six seconds into the fourth quarter, Harris went to work through the air this time, hooking up with Burton on a 61-yard pass play that set up the Bears with a first and goal at the NSU 4. Three plays later, Harris took it over the goal line himself to draw the Bears to within 27-21 at the 13:23 mark.

Missouri State covered 69 yards in 12 plays, converting a fourth-and-1 at the NSU 45 on a 4-yard run up the middle by Calan Crowder to keep the march going, and getting the touchdown to the 6-foot-7, 270-pound tight end when the replay official ruled Sinclair stretched the ball across the goalline as he went down with Harris’ pass at the 5:15 mark.  Marcelo Bonani’s fourth consecutive made extra point provided the go-ahead at 28-27.

James Barnes added the punctuation mark on MSU’s memorable comeback by picking off a last-ditch NSU lateral and carrying it into the end zone to account for the final margin.

Kierra Harris matched a career high by passing for three touchdowns, including a 13-yard scoring strike to Gannon Sinclair with just over five minutes remaining in the game to put the Bears on top for good.

The Bears had only 162 yards offensively until taking over after the fumble, but followed their veteran offensive line and Harris’ elusiveness and arm to 256 yards in the game’s last 23 minutes.

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