Missouri St. storms back to shock Demons in opener - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Missouri St. storms back to shock Demons in opener


NATCHITOCHES – 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.

The game turned after the Bears denied the Demons what seemed a clinching touchdown midway through the third quarter, when Colby Isabell forced and recovered a fumble as NSU's Garrett Atzenweiler was inside the 1 about to make it 31-7. Missouri State drove 97 yards in 14 plays and got back into the game on a 15-yard Harris toss to Eric Christophel.

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 while the Demons stalled and got only 80 more yards.

After NSU padded its margin on a 44-yard Chris Moore field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bears responded quickly with a 61-yard bomb from Harris to Julian Burton setting up a 1-yard Harris sneak on third-and-goal, closing the gap to 27-21 with 13:16 to go.

The Demons had a chance to make it a two-score game, but a 48-yard Moore field goal with 9:09 left came out low and was deflected short. 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 margin, 28-27.

The Demons went three-and-out for only the second time in the game, and the Bears were able to grind off all but the final 23 seconds before punting and leaving NSU deep in its own end of the field. On the final play, Missouri State's James Barnes recovered a botched lateral and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown.

“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.

“It's a hard lesson for us but by no means a devastating loss. It's a painful one. We have 11 games left and I saw enough tonight to know we can be a very good football team. We were for a good portion of the game but didn't close the door on them on several occasions,” he said.

The Demons piled up 493 total yards, 318 on passing by Zach Atkins, who went 31 of 42 with one interception. Ed Eagan caught nine passes for 107 yards, including a 12-yard TD midway in the second quarter to move NSU ahead 17-0.

De'Mard Llorens, who ran for a game and career-high 94 yards on 11 tries, bolted 53 yards to open the scoring just six plays into the game. Moore added a 41-yard field goal for a 10-0 advantage.

Harris and Burton connected on a 41-yard TD strike one snap after an interception to get the Bears on the board 4:40 before halftime, but NSU regained control with a quick 65-yard, six play drive ended by back-to-back Adkins to Bryant Mitchell passes, the second one a 28-yard score 2:27 before halftime for a 24-7 lead.

It didn't seem conceivable at the time, but the Demons didn't find the end zone again.

All-America safety Caleb Schaffitzel and Dylan Cole led the Bears with eight tackles. Senior end Justin Evans and senior linebacker Marion Chapman each made nine stops for NSU.

Harris threw for 195 yards on 11 of 22 aim and scampered for 66 rushing yards on 11 carries. Burton had four catches for 140 yards.

Both teams play Big XII Conference foes on the road next Saturday. NSU goes to No. 10 Baylor while Missouri State visits Oklahoma State.

A crowd of 9,284 fans watched at Turpin Stadium, where the Demons fell in their home opener for only the 10th time in the 37-year history of the facility.

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