No. 11-ranked Central Arkansas (2-1) scored a pair of touchdowns in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to overcome a double-figure lead by Missouri State and secure a 27-20 victory. Missouri State (0-2) was stopped on fourth down twice in the final 3:28 of the game, first at the UCA seven-yard line and later at the 28 before the 11th-ranked home squad was able to seal the win.
With MSU holding a 20-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter, quarterback Jaden Johnson coughed up a fumble on the first play of the final period that UCA’s Dre Matthews scooped up and returned 30 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing series, Missouri State was stopped on three straight plays to force a punt. Grant Burkett’s 43-yard kick was fielded by Central Arkansas’ Tyler Hudson at the UCA 43, and he then got two key blocks to spring him free for the go-ahead touchdown. MSU would punt on its next two possessions before ending the game with drives halted on fourth down its last two series.
Johnson finished 24-of-44 for 249 yards and an interception to lead Missouri State. Kevon Latulas was also key for the Bears offense, carrying 12 times for a team-high 63 yards and catching 6 passes for 83 yards. Latulas also scooped up a blocked punt for the Bears in the first half for a touchdown, Missouri State’s first such blocked punt TD since Rickey Nichols did so on Oct. 14, 2017.
“We were in a position to win the game,” said MSU head coach Bobby Petrino. “With the punt return and the fumble late in the game, it’s hard to overcome those. They stopped us twice on fourth down late in the game which was also big.I thought our defense did a nice job defending their wide receivers and a great quarterback. They were a playoff time last year, and they’re very experienced.”
The Bears and UCA will square off again on Saturday, Oct. 17 at Robert W. Plaster Stadium in Springfield. The rematch will kick at 7 p.m., in the third and final game on the fall slate for Missouri State.
Story courtesy: MSU Athletics