Game Preview: Bears Host South Dakota on Family Weekend

9/21/2021 | Football

#18 Missouri State Bears (1-1) vs. South Dakota (2-1)

Date and Time   Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 | 7:05 p.m. (Central)

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

Promotion          Family Weekend

 

Up Next               Missouri State begins a two-game road swing on October 2 at Illinois State (1 p.m.)

 

First and Ten

Missouri State will open its 37th season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference on Saturday (7 p.m.) when the Bears entertain South Dakota at Robert W. Plaster Stadium (ESPN3) on Family Weekend. MSU is 17-19 all-time in Valley openers, including two wins in a row and a 30-24 win at Western Illinois in last year’s MVFC lid lifter.

 

Missouri State’s 43-34 win over UCA in the home opener (9/11/21) included offensive, defensive and special teams touchdowns for the Bears. It marked the first time MoState has achieved that feat since its 27-24 win last season at South Dakota (3/13/21) in Vermillion.

 

Damoriea Vick (Oklahoma City, Okla.) is 3 receiving yards from eclipsing the program’s career top 10 in that category. He is already No. 7 on MSU’s career receptions list (118) and is the program’s active leader in both consecutive starts (33) and consecutive games with a pass reception (19). Vick is also just 17 receiving yards away from 1,500 in his career.

 

Missouri State is ranked No. 18 in this week’s STATS Perform FCS and AFCA Top 25 polls. It marks the 9th straight week the Bears have been ranked in the STATS Perform FCS Top 25, dating back to 3/30/21.

 

Cornerback Montrae Braswell (Avon Park, Fla.) was named the MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week on 9/12/21 after his 96-yard kickoff return for a TD in the 4th quarter against UCA. He currently leads the MVFC and ranks 2nd nationally in KO return average (35.8). After last season’s 27-24 MSU win at South Dakota, Braswell earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Week honors when he scored a pair of TDs in Vermillion. His 36-yard pick-six was MSU’s first interception return for a TD since 2016 (Robert Thomas), while his 100-yard kickoff return matched the longest in program history. Braswell also had 6 solo tackles in the win.

MSU’s offense ranks high among all FCS programs in several categories, including 7th in turnover margin (+2.0), 19th in time of possession (33:53), and 37th in scoring (29.5).

 

Xavier Lane (WR, Montgomery, Ala.) earned MVFC Offensive Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week honors after the Bears week 2 win over UCA. In the win, he racked up 148 yards on 9 pass receptions, the most receiving yards by a Bears wideout since 2018. The transfer from Western Kentucky’s biggest catch of the day was a 26-yard catch and run to the end zone with 29 seconds left in the game to give the Bears the lead for good. Lane currently ranks 2nd in the MVFC in both receptions per game (8.5) and receiving yards per game (113.0). He enters the week ranked 4th nationally in receptions per game and 7th in receiving yards per game.

The Missouri State defense ranks 12th nationally in fewest rushing yards per game (87.5).

 

Bears punter, Grant Burkett (So., Joplin, Mo.) is tops in the MVFC and 2nd nationally in punting average (50.8), while helping the Bears lead the nation in net punting (48.3). Last year, he had a 43.0 average, which ranked 13th nationally and 3rd in the MVFC while earning All-MVFC honorable mention distinction.

For his career, Jason Shelley is 196-for-358 (.547) for 2,087 yards and 10 TD. With a pair of 200-yard passing games to open his MSU career, he ranks 31st nationally in both total offense (259.5) and passing (233.0).

 

Co-captain Titus Wall (S, Plano, Texas) reached 200 career tackles (44 games) in MSU’s week 2 win over Central Arkansas … Classmate Tyler Lovelace (LB, Lee’s Summit, Mo.) also reached a milestone in the UCA game with his 150th career stop (40 games).

 

All-MVFC kicker Jose Pizano (Lehi, Utah) shares the FCS national lead in field goals per game (3.0), ranks 11th in scoring average (11.5), and 19th in FG accuracy (.857) on 6-of-7 attempts. He has converted 6 straight FG attempts this season and is 24-of-24 on extra points in his MSU career.

 

Missouri State enters Saturday’s game riding a 3-game home win streak, the program’s longest since it reeled off 3 home wins in a row from 9/6/18 to 9/27/18. The club’s last 4-game home win streak came in 2010.

 

Tylar Wiltz (LB, Plano, Tex.) is coming off his first career interception, a 45-yard, walk-off “pick six” against UCA.

 

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 125-62 (.668) in his 16th season as a head coach and is 6-6 at Missouri State, including a 5-2 ledger in the spring of 2021. As Bears head coach, Petrino is 3-4 on the road, and 3-2 at Plaster Stadium. He is 1-0 all-time against South Dakota.

 

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. 19-21 for complete career stats/bio.

 

Series History

The Bears and Coyotes are fairly-recent Valley rivals, playing seven times since South Dakota joined the MVFC in 2012. USD leads the series, 4-3, with Missouri State escaping Vermillion with a 27-24 victory in the most-recent matchup in March. MSU is 2-1 at Plaster Stadium all-time against the Coyotes.

In the most-recent games between the squads, Missouri State got touchdowns from its offense, defense and special teams and racked up six sacks in the second half to pull out a thrilling 27-24 road win. Jose Pizano’s 28-yard field goal with 7:51 remaining in the contest proved to be the game-winner, capping a nine-play, 42-yard scoring drive that included a 26-yard completion from Matt Struck to Damoriea Vick on third down that carried the Bears to the USD 24. Pizano’s kick came on the heels of a monumental blocked field goal by Eric Johnson who came up the middle and got a hand on a 44-yard attempt by USD’s Mason Lorber to kill a potential go-ahead drive by the Coyotes and give the ball back to MSU near midfield with 12:21 to play. Jeremiah Wilson carried 14 times for 58 yards, and Tobias Little tallied 52 yards on 13 carries to lead the Bears who finished the afternoon with 158 ground yards on 40 attempts. Wilson tied the game, 24-24, with 3:41 to go in the third quarter with a six-yard TD run. The score capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive for MSU that include a fourth-down conversion pass from Jaden Johnson to Little and a 24-yard strike to Vick into the red zone. Wilson then carried three straight times to tie it up.