LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After losing to No. 23 Louisville 35-7 on Saturday, FCS school Missouri State was just glad to be done with FBS schools from power conferences.
"I know I'm happy with the games to over with," said Missouri State coach Terry Allen, whose Bears opened the season with a loss to Kansas State. "We came out of it with relatively no injuries, except our pride and we can heal that.
"The great thing is we get to get home."
While the Bears aren't proud about allowing 86 points the past two weeks, they took heart in not being embarrassed. They trailed then-No. 22 Kansas State 9-6 in the third quarter last week before the Wildcats ripped off 42 unanswered points.
Saturday was more of a methodical beating by Louisville (2-0). Missouri State trailed only 18-7 after Cadarrius Dotson caught a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ashton Glaser with 51 seconds left in the first-half.
And despite being outgained 329-111 in the first half, the Bears didn't flinch.
"I was not disappointed in our defensive play in the first half," said Allen. "I thought we played a bit better offensively as the game went on."
But then, so did Louisville. An 11-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter provided a 25-7 lead, as Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hit Ryan Hubbell with a two-yard touchdown pass. Matthew Nakatani's 45-yard field goal made it 28-7 with 10 minutes to play.
Missouri State ended up being outgained 475-249 and rushed for just 99 yards on 31 attempts. Glaser finished 14 of 23 for 125 yards and was intercepted and sacked.
Bridgewater, on the other hand, had his best day, while Louisville's defense had its best game to date. The sophomore completed 30 of 39 passes for a career-high 344 yards and touchdowns to tight ends Nate Nord and Ryan Hubbell.
Like last week's win against Kentucky, he got everybody involved early and often, with seven of his 10 targets catching at least three passes.
"He's what, 19?" Nord said. "He plays like he's in his 30s. He's just fun to play with. Everybody wants to help him."
Glaser had help with eight receivers catching passes, but the Bears' spread offense just couldn't stretch things against the Cardinals. Through three quarters they gained just 156 yards, and not even a fourth-quarter yardage burst could change things.
Defensively, the Bears' only break came on the second drive of the game when Nord dropped Bridgewater's pass at the back of the end zone, forcing the Cardinals to settle for Nakatani's 19-yard goal and a 3-0 lead.
Louisville broke through on the next possession, driving 70 yards in 12 plays mostly on Bridgewater's arm. He completed four of seven passes for 53 yards, including a 21-yard sideline throw to Andrell Smith, leading to Senorise Perry's 3-yard scoring run.Comment on this story
The Cardinals kicked it up a notch from there with a 13-play, 83-yard scoring drive capped by Bridgewater's 14-yard play-action pass in the right flat to Nord, who leaped the final five yards for the goal line. Bridgewater continued to spread the ball around but the key play was a third-down shovel pass to Charles Gaines for nine yards.
Louisville didn't allow Missouri State inside the 40 for most of the first half, and safety Calvin Pryor intercepted Glaser's deep pass at the 15.
But when Louisville didn't take advantage — a failure compounded by a personal foul when it interfered with MSU's Julian Burton as he fair-caught a punt — the Bears did. Glaser completed five consecutive passes to a trio of receivers for 57 yards, capping the 73-yard drive with a 6-yard score to Cadarrius Dotson with 51 seconds left in the half for their first — and so far, only — touchdown this season.
"I think they are very deserving of their top-(25) ranking," Missouri State Coach Terry Allen said. "Great control of the line of scrimmage defensively, which kept their offense and our defense on the field way too long in the first half."