SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State took advantage of excellent field position to score three touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the first half, and Western Illinois could not overcome the deficit. The Leathernecks dropped to 3-5 overall (1-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) following the 42-3 loss on Saturday.
Western thwarted the Bears' first scoring attempt (third drive) when Martinez Davis broke through the line and blocked Austin Witmer's 44-yard field goal attempt. Quarterback Hayden Northern made his collegiate debut on the ensuing drive, got into Bears territory but the drive stalled. MSU went 80 yards on seven plays, capped by a 38-yard TD pass from Kierra Harris to Dorian Buford.
The Leathernecks responded by driving into the redzone. However, the drive stalled on the 10 and Western settled for a Pat Smith 27-yard field goal making it 7-3. From there it was all Bears on their Homecoming weekend.
Harris and the Bears needed just 98 seconds to go 71 yards, capped with a 3-yard TD pass to Cadarrius Dotson midway through the quarter. After the Bears threw two interceptions and Western threw one, a short field led to the Bears getting a 4-yard TD pass and extend the lead to 21-3. Another interception by the Bears on the first play of the ensuing Western drive eventually led to Harris' TD run at the goal line seconds before halftime.
Five of the Bears' first-half drives began at midfield or deep inside Western territory.
Late in the third quarter Mikael Cooper-Falls broke off a run to inside the 3-yard line then on the next play scored to make it 35-3. MSU tacked on another rushing TD early in the fourth quarter, a 1-yard run making it the worst loss in the 32 games all-time.
"We never quit playing hard. We were out-performed, we didn't play well enough to win the ball game today. Missouri State played better than we did, they performed better during the four quarters," said head coach Mark Hendrickson. "We've got to perform better on each and every snap. Every loss is very tough. You prepare to win ever game... every loss is tough. As we talked in the locker room we have three more weeks to practice and play together this 2012 team, and they'll give it all they got. Our focus turns to next Saturday at Hanson Field."
Caulton Ray led the rushing attack with 75 yards while Nikko Watson reached the 1,000 rushing mark in his career (12 games) with his 72 yards. Ray moved into seventh place all-time in yards with 2,198.
When addressing the quarterback scenario, Hendrickson noted that Northern was going to get his chance.
"We felt what gave us the best opportunity to win this game was to mix up the quarterback position. A couple of weeks ago we brought in Wil and had the victory at South Dakota. Hayden has been practicing well since the start of camp. We felt like he earned the opportunity to play," said Hendrickson.
Davis had three tackles to go with his two interceptions and blocked kick. For the second time this year he came up with two picks in a game (Indianapolis) and now leads the squad with five. David McDaniel came up with his third interception and had six tackles. J.J. Raffelson and Theon Dixon led Western with seven tackles.
Harris went 13-of-23 for 130 yards and three passing TDs with his three interceptions. Cooper-Falls finished with 95 yards rushing. Nick Canavan recorded a game-high 13 tackles.
The Leathernecks return to Hanson Field next Saturday (Nov. 3), playing host to Northern Iowa. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be televised live on Mediacom. Tickets can be purchased by calling (309) 298-1190 or online at www.GoLeathernecks.com.
GAME NOTES: True-freshman defensive lineman Kevin Estell made his first collegiate start... Northern's appearance makes him the eighth true-freshman to play for Western this year... Davis is one interception shy of joining the season 'Top 10' in that category (5-way tie for sixth place with six picks)... The Leathernecks pulled off a fake punt when Smith completed a pass to former quarterback-turned wide receiver Cody Reardon. The 11-yard gain for a first down on a leaping catch was Reardon's first-ever reception and Smith's first-ever pass attempt... The points allowed today were the most given up to the Bears since 2003. The previous largest margin of defeat was 21 points in 1990... Smith holds second place all-time with his 11th consecutive field goal (dating back to last year). He is one off the record set by Justin Langan.