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Game Preview: Bears Host North Dakota in Playoff Rematch

#17 Missouri State Bears (4-3, 3-2 MVFC) vs. North Dakota (3-4, 1-3 MVFC)

Date and Time   Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 | 2:05 p.m. (Central)

Location               Robert W. Plaster Stadium (17,500) | Springfield, Mo.

Promotion          Special Ticket Promotions | BearFest Village Opens at 11 a.m.

Game Information           Stadium Procedures | Tailgating & BearFest Village | Weather

Tickets | (417) 836-7678 | Stadium Box Office Opens at 10 a.m. on Game Day

Program               Digital Game Program

Radio     KWTO (101.3 FM) (Art Hains, Dennis Heim) | MSU Radio Network | Listen Live

Television            KOZL-TV / ESPN+ (Don West, Dan Lucy) | Watch

Series    North Dakota leads 2-1 | Last Meeting: UND 44, MSU 10 (4/24/21) | Stats

Live Stats             Live Stats

Up Next               Missouri State travels to Southern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 6 (12:00 p.m.)

First and Ten

After giving No. 3 North Dakota State a scare last week in Fargo, the No. 20-ranked Missouri State Bears return to Robert W. Plaster Stadium this Saturday (2 p.m.) for a showdown against North Dakota in a playoff rematch against the Fighting Hawks. This will be just the fourth-ever meeting between the two schools and the first-ever conference game between them. MSU is 3-0 at home this fall and has reeled off 5 straight home wins.

Jason Shelley (QB, Frisco, Texas) is coming off his 7th straight 200-yard passing game to start his Missouri State career and is just one 200-yard game away from tying the MSU single-season record of 8 (Jay Rodgers, 1999). Shelley needs just 95 passing yards to reach 2,000 for the season — done just 10 times previously in school history — and is just 291 passing yards shy of the single-season top 5 in program history.

Defensive tackle Eric Johnson (Plainfield, Ill.) has played in 50 consecutive games, which is believed to be a program record. Johnson has racked up 107 total tackles in his career with 15.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. The sixth-year senior was an All-MVFC second-team selection in 2020-21.

Wide receiver Tyrone Scott (Estill, S.C.) posted his 4th 100+ yard receiving performance of the season last week at NDSU, which ties an MSU single-season record (also done by Jeff Hewitt – 2000; Mark Marcos – 2001; Clay Harbor – 2009; and Jermaine Saffold – 2010 & 2011). In MVFC games, he leads all conference wideouts with 104.2 yards per game. Overall, he is averaging 81.9 yards per game, which ranks 30th nationally, while his 17.9 yards per reception ranks 33rd among all FCS players.

Missouri State’s offense ranks 16th nationally in first downs (161); 18th in time of possession (32:28); 19th in passing offense (275.9); 20th in red-zone efficiency (.889); 21st in third-down efficiency (44.2); and 30th in total offense (420.6).

Bears punter, Grant Burkett (Joplin, Mo.) ranks 1st in the MVFC and 3rd nationally in punting average (46.4), while helping the Bears rank 2nd in the nation in net punting (43.31). He has 11 punts this season of 50 yards or more with 10 downed inside the 20.

Missouri State’s home attendance average of 12,774 ranks 13th among all FCS programs this season.

Jose Pizano (K, Lehi, Utah) leads the MVFC and ranks 4th nationally in field goals per game (2.00) per game. He also ranks 11th nationally in scoring (9.3), which is 2nd-best in the MVFC. He is 14-for-17 (.824) on field goal attempts this season, which ranks 22nd nationally in FG accuracy, while his season FG total is tied for the 4th-best in MSU history.

Montrae Braswell (CB, Avon Park, Fla.) ranks 4th nationally in kickoff return average (30.8) and 16th in interceptions per game (0.40). He has 6 interceptions in 14 career games at Missouri State.

Jordan Murray (WR, Lee’s Summit, Mo.) reached 1,000 career receiving yards during last week’s game at North Dakota State. He now has 85 receptions for 1,002 yards in 37 career games and is just the 24th Bears player to reach 1,000 career receiving yards.

The Missouri State defense ranks 6th nationally in takeaways (17); 10th in interceptions (10); 21st in turnover margin (+0.71); 34th in sacks (2.43); 39th in rushing defense (133.7).

Tylar Wiltz (LB, Breaux Bridge, La.) is averaging 11.5 tackles per game over the Bears’ last 4 contests. The club’s top tackler (60) ranks 4th in the MVFC in total stops per game (8.6) and 44th nationally.

Jason Shelley continues to rank high nationally in a variety of offensive statistics, including 5th in yards per completion (14.32), 11th in total offense (307.4), 14th in passing yards (1,905) and 16th in passing yards per game (272.1). He is a two-time MVFC Newcomer of the Week and leads all Valley players in total offense.

Both of Missouri State’s conference losses, and all three of North Dakota’s MVFC losses this season have been by a touchdown or less. The Bears also lost a 7-point game at Oklahoma State in their only other defeat.

Coach Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino is in his second season as Missouri State’s head football coach after joining the Bears program on January 16, 2020. He is currently 128-64 (.667) in his 16th season as a head coach and is 9-8 at Missouri State, including a 5-2 ledger in the spring of 2021. As Bears head coach, Petrino is 8-3 in Valley games, 4-6 on the road, and 5-2 at Plaster Stadium. He is 0-1 all-time against North Dakota (0-0 at home).

He picked up his 75th career conference victory on Oct. 2 at Illinois State.

During the 2020-21 season, Petrino helped lead the Bears to a 5-1 mark in Missouri Valley Football Conference play to earn a share of the MVFC regular-season title. His efforts not only landed him the prestigious Bruce Craddock MVFC Coach of the Year Award, but also led the Bears to their first NCAA FCS playoff appearance in 30 years.

ESPN recently named Petrino to its list of the top 100 college football coaches of the last 50 years, placing Petrino No. 77 on the list.

Petrino previously served as head coach in two stints at Louisville as well as Arkansas and Western Kentucky. He spent 14 seasons at the FBS level and led his programs to 11 bowl appearances with seven teams ranked in the top 25 at season’s end.

The Helena, Mont., native is in his 33rd year of collegiate coaching overall, having guided his programs to AP top-six final rankings three times (2004, 2006, 2011) and directing some of the nation’s top offensive programs along the way. His clubs have finished in the top five nationally in scoring offense three times, while his 2004 club at Louisville led the country in scoring (49.8 ppg). He has developed 34 NFL Draft selections during his illustrious career, including four in the first round, and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

Petrino and his wife Becky have four children: Kelsey, Nick, Bobby and Katie – and six grandchildren. Nick Petrino is Missouri State’s offensive coordinator, while sons-in-law Ryan Beard (defensive coordinator) and L.D. Scott (defensive line) are also on the MSU coaching staff this season. See pp. 28-30 for complete career stats/bio.

Series History

This will be the first-ever conference meeting between the squads who have met three times previously with UND leading the series, 2-1. This will be the first game in Springfield against UND since 2014.

The teams first met on 9/13/14 before a Missouri State record crowd of 18,386 at Plaster Stadium. Playing its first home game in newly-refurbished Plaster Stadium, MSU built a 14-0 halftime lead thanks in large part to its defense, then pulled away with three touchdowns in a five-minute span in the second half in a 38-0 victory. The Bears’ defense limited UND to 166 yards of total offense and just seven first downs.

The second meeting took place on 9/9/17 in Grand Forks as the Fighting Hawks used a 21-point second quarter to pace a 34-0 decision at the Alerus Center. North Dakota held the Bears to just 211 yards of total offense, including 76 in the first half, while Keaton Studsrud passed for 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns to pace UND.

This spring (4/24/21), a fast start by North Dakota proved too much as the Fighting Hawks scored on their first four possessions and cruised to a 44-10 win over the Bears in the first round of the NCAA FCS playoffs. Making their first NCAA appearance since 1990, Missouri State fell behind 27-3 at the intermission, but did not allow an offensive touchdown until two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Bears secured their only touchdown of the game with 12:20 to play as quarterback Jaden Johnson tucked the ball and scampered eight yards for a touchdown to cap a 10-play, 46-yard scoring drive. Missouri State’s TD march included a 13-yard pickup by Myron Mason and a 12-yard carry from Tobias Little to the UND 8-yard line.

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