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WATCH: Oklahoma State Cowboys hold off FCS foe Missouri State, 23-16

Sep 4, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Missouri State Bears safety Kyriq McDonald (6) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Brennan Presley (80) during the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Missouri State Bears safety Kyriq McDonald (6) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Brennan Presley (80) during the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Illingworth threw for 315 yards and a touchdown, while Oklahoma State’s defense came up with two clutch stops in the last two minutes to preserve a 23-16 season-opening win over Missouri State on Saturday night in Stillwater, Okla.

The Bears, an FCS opponent that was a 32 1/2-point underdog, closed within seven points on Jason Shelley’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Scott with 3:06 left. They recovered the ensuing kickoff at the 16 but gave up the ball on downs with 1:59 remaining.

Missouri State got the ball back with 1:34 on the clock after a 3-and-out and drove from its 30 to the Cowboys’ 26. However, consecutive sacks turned the ball over to Oklahoma State with nine seconds left.

Shelley completed 23 of 44 passes for 233 yards under heavy pressure. He absorbed five sacks.

The pregame storyline concerned the absence of Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback, Spencer Sanders, who was ruled out of the game due to COVID-19 protocols.

It didn’t appear to matter for much of the first half as Illingworth piloted the Cowboys to 20 unanswered points. He initiated scoring with a 5-yard pass to Tay Martin just over five minutes into the game.

Oklahoma State upped the margin to 20 with a pair of touchdowns in a 41-second span early in the second quarter. Jaylen Warren powered over from the 1 with 11:38 left for a 13-0 advantage. Following Devin Harper’s fumble recovery at the Missouri State 25, LD Brown scored two plays later on an 11-yard run.

But just when it appeared the rout was on, it wasn’t. The Bears didn’t allow another score until early in the fourth quarter and controlled play for most of the last 2 1/2 quarters.

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Their first three scores were 30-, 48- and 33-yard field goals by Jose Pizano. Missouri State appeared to have pulled within 20-13 late in the third quarter, but a touchdown was nullified for holding.

Oklahoma State’s only points of the second half came on a 35-yard field goal by Alex Hale with 13:05 left in the game.

–Field Level Media