JOPLIN, Mo. – It took the fourth-ranked Northwest Missouri State Bearcats almost three quarters to get rolling, but it finally jumped on Missouri Southern to take a 52-21 MIAA win at Fred G. Hughes Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Northwest improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in league action in a game that was much tougher than the final score reflected on the scoreboard. The Lions fell to 3-5 overall and 2-5 in the MIAA as the Bearcats reached the 50-point plateau for the seventh time this season.
The Bearcats took a touchdown lead into the half as they were held out of the end zone when Blake Christopher threw only his second interception of the year. Maurlon Bembry picked off the pass attempt to Jake Soy in the corner of the end zone for the Lions second take-away of the half.
MSSU pulled within 14-7 before the pick when Demon Haire recovered a Bearcat fumble in the end zone with just over two minutes left in the half.
Both teams struggled through sloppy play in the third quarter before the Bearcats stole the momentum when Bryce Enyard picked off a Lions pass and returned it 49 yards to the MSSU 18-yard line setting up a Todd Adolf field goal. It was Enyard’s fourth pick of the year after he had intercepted Collin Howard’s pass on the previous play, but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Lions a first down and a second opportunity.
A 40-yard field goal from Adolf and a two-yard MSSU touchdown plunge pulled the Lions back within three, but that would be all the Lions could muster as the Bearcats took over the game. Jordan Simmons returned the ensuing kickoff 98-yards shifting the tide back to the Northwest sideline closing out the third quarter.
Simmons scored one final time for this third touchdown of the game as he raced 34 yards down the sideline sealing a Bearcat victory. His two second-half touchdowns were sandwiched by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Kilgore from Trevor Adams and a blocked punt recovered by David Mosley in the end zone.
Simmons finished with a game high 92 yards on 11 carries and three scores.
Blake Christopher finished 12 of 23 for 105 yards passing and added another 33 yards on the ground before being forced out of the game with a leg injury. Christopher rushed for two first half touchdowns as well.
Adams completed all three pass attempts for 26 yards and one touchdown.
The Bearcats used a balanced attack with 298 yards of total offense while the Lions finished with 302 yards. However the Bearcats, who are in the top 10 in the nation in turnover margin, used three take a ways and four sacks to slow the MSSU offense.
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