Game Preview: Football Bears Look to Stay Hot with Road Test at Youngstown

Game Preview: Football Looks to Stay Hot with Road Test at Youngstown

#15 Missouri State Bears (3-1, 2-0 MVFC) at Youngstown State (1-3, 0-2 MVFC)


Series    Youngstown State leads 15-6 | Last Meeting: MSU 21, YSU 10 (4/10/21) | Stats


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Up Next               The Bears return to Plaster Stadium on Oct. 16 to take on Indiana State for Homecoming (2 p.m.)

First and Ten


Missouri State concludes a two-game Missouri Valley Football Conference road swing this week when the No. 15-ranked Bears travel to Youngstown State at 1 p.m. (ESPN+).


Running back Tobias Little (Atlanta, Ga.) was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week after he rushed for a career-high 90 yards on 14 carries and scored 3 touchdowns in MSU’s win at Illinois State last week.


In conference games, the Bears have outscored their MVFC foes by a combined 37-0 margin in the second half. Likewise, MSU’s defense has held its first two league foes to a combined 5-for-28 (.178) on third down in the second half and just 236 yards on 62 combined plays in the third and fourth quarter.


Jason Shelley (QB, Frisco, Texas) completed 70.4% of his passes (19-for-27) in last week’s win at Illinois State while throwing for a career-high 319 yards and 2 TDs. Shelley is a two-time MVFC Newcomer of the Week and has thrown just one interception in his last 6 starts (187 pass attempts), including his last 2 starts at Utah State in 2020. College Sports Madness named Shelley’s as the MVFC’s top offensive player for last week.


Shelley ranks 12th nationally in total offense (305.5), 19th in passing (266.5) and 19th in completion yds. (13.49).


Landon Bebee (OL, Webb City, Mo.) was named MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week after his effort at Illinois State. Bebee recorded a 98-percent assignment grade; a 94-percent effort grade; and a 90-percent technique grade by the coaching staff. The Bears rolled up 513 yards of offense and did not allow any sacks vs. the Redbirds.


Missouri State is ranked No. 15 in this week’s STATS Perform FCS Top 25 and No. 16 in the AFCA Top 25 polls. It marks the 11th 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.) snagged his 3rd interception of the season in last week’s win at Illinois State and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. It marked Braswell’s 6th interception in 11 games at MSU. He ranks 5th nationally in interceptions per game (0.75) and 5th in kickoff return average (34.2).


Missouri State ranks 3rd nationally in red zone offense (.929), 6th in 3rd-down efficiency (.492), 9th in turnover margin (+1.5), 12th in time of possession (33:37), 25th in passing (266.2) and 25th in scoring (34.2).


Bears punter, Grant Burkett (So., Joplin, Mo.) is 1st in the MVFC and 5th nationally in punting average (47.6), while helping the Bears rank 3rd in the nation in net punting (44.45). He has 8 punts this season of 50 yards or more with 8 downed inside the 20.


The Missouri State defense ranks 6th nationally in interceptions (8), 13th in rushing defense (86.2) and 14th in team sacks per game (3.00). The Bears also rank 4th nationally in blocked kicks (3).


Missouri State is 4-0 in MVFC road games under coach Bobby Petrino. Overall, Petrino is 7-1 in Valley games.

Defensive end Kevin Ellis (Ft. Worth, Texas) is the Valley leader in tackles for loss (1.6), which ranks 15th among all FCS players. For his career, he has 128 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in 34 games.


Jordan Murray (WR, Lee’s Summit, Mo.) is just 18 receiving yards away from 1,000 for his career. He has 82 receptions in 34 career games and scored his 10th career TD in last week’s win at Illinois State. He would become just the 24th Bears player to reach 1,000 career receiving yards (joining teammate Damoriea Vick).


Missouri State’s 513 yards of total offense at Illinois State last week marked the team’s best offensive output since racking up 624 yards against Indiana State at Plaster Stadium on Oct. 28, 2017.


Eric Johnson (DT, Plainfield, Ill.) reached his 100th career tackle in Saturday’s win at Illinois State. The sixth-year standout has played 47 consecutive games and has racked up 15.0 career tackles for loss.


In last season’s meeting between the squads (April 10, 2021), the Bears clinched a share of the MVFC title for the first time in 30 seasons with a 21-10 home win over the Penguins. YSU’s Jaleel McLaughlin had 20 carries for 100 yards, while the Bears got 99 yards on 22 carries from Celdon Manning and three straight TD drives engineered by Jaden Johnson in the second and third quarters, including two TD passes to Damoriea Vick.

Missouri State is seeking its first 3-0 conference start since 1997. The Bears have split their last 4 games in Youngstown, but have not won there since 2011.


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 127-62 (.670) in his 16th season as a head coach and is 8-6 at Missouri State, including a 5-2 ledger in the spring of 2021. As Bears head coach, Petrino is 4-4 on the road, and 4-2 at Plaster Stadium. He is 1-0 all-time against Youngstown State.


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.


Series History

Missouri State trails the all-time series against Youngstown State, 6-15, in a rivalry that dates back to 1996 when the Penguins first joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Bears are also 2-8 at Stambaugh Stadium, but have split the last four contests there, including a thrilling 38-34 win in 2011.


The series has included two league-dictated “off cycles” in the series from 2012-13 and then again from 2018-19.


Last season in Springfield (April 10, 2021), the Bears clinched a share of the MVFC regular-season title for the first time since 1990 with a 21-10 victory over YSU at Plaster Stadium and the team’s fourth straight victory of the spring. The Bears capped an 85-yard scoring drive just before the half to lead 7-3 at the midway point, then reeled off two unanswered scores in the third quarter to secure the win. Celdon Manning paced the Bears offense with 22 carries for 99 yards, QB Jaden Johnson rushed for 56 yards on 11 carries and threw for 73 yards on 6-of-12 pass attempts, and Damoriea Vick hauled in 5 passes for 59 yards and a pair of TDs. Tylar Wiltz (12 total stops) and Montrae Braswell (6 tackles) paced the defense with Wiltz earning MVFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Stats

One of Missouri State’s most-memorable games at Stambaugh Stadium was on Nov. 19, 2011 when the Bears rolled up 389 yards of total offense and scored the game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left (a 2-yard pass from Trevor Wooden to Cadarrius Dotson) in a 38-34 MSU victory. The Bears best offensive output at Stambaugh came on Oct. 13, 2001 when they produced 406 yards in a 40-21 loss to the Penguins.