Gridders head for Tennessee-Martin Thursday



The football Bears hit the road for the first time in the young 2007 season and face their first FCS opponent when they go to Martin, Tenn., Thursday (Sept. 6) to play the University of Tennesee-Martin Skyhawks at 6 p.m.

 Playing their second straight Thursday night game, the Bears put their 1-0 record on the line against the 0-1 Skyhawks. The Bears opened with a 62-17 win over Division II Missouri-Rolla Thursday in Springfield while UTM fell 35-13 Saturday at Southern Mississippi.

 The Bears open the season with four non-league games and then begin play in the 23rd year of the Gateway Football Conference Sept. 29 at Youngstown State.

  Missouri State has six home games in 2007, including three home league games. In contrast, however, to the last five years, the Bears have non-conference play after their league schedule begins. MSU closes its campaign at home Nov. 10 vs. Southeast Missouri State. That addition to the schedule came when Western Kentucky left the Gateway after the 2006 season to go to the Sun Belt Conference.

 The Bears have five of their next seven games on the road before finishing the season with three straight at home. After the game at UTM, the Bears hit the road for their first-ever meeting with Kansas State Sept. 15 before their next home test, a visit to Plaster by Central Arkansas Sept. 22. This year marks the first time the Bears have played two Thursday games in a season. The Bears’ first four games this year are night games and the last seven are day games.

The Coaches: Terry Allen (UNI, ’76) is 3-9 with the Bears in his second year at Missouri State; 98-68 overall in his 15th year as a college head coach. He’s 0-0 vs. Tennessee-Martin. (Allen detailed bio and Missouri State and Gateway win lists attached).

Jason Simpson (Southern Mississippi, ’95) is 9-4 in his second year at UTM and overall as a college head coach. He’s 0-0 vs. Missouri State.

Tennessee-Martin: The Skyhawks were 9-3 in 2006, won the Ohio Valley Conference title, and advanced to the NCAA FCS playoffs where they lost 36-30 in the first round to GFC school Southern Illinois.

 UTM opened its 2007 season Saturday in a 35-13 loss at Southern Miss. The Skyhawks took a 6-0 lead on field goals early in each of the first two periods but USM got rolling and punched up five straight touchdowns before UTM got its lone TD late in the game. Southern Miss had a 432-257 edge in total offense, including 310-72 in rushing.

Series record: Missouri State leads, 4-0. The Bears beat UTM 39-7 in 1996, 27-14 in 1997, 62-7 in 1999 and 52-6 in 2000. The 1996 meeting was at UTM and the other three games were in Springfield.

Affiliation: Missouri State is in its 26th Division I FCS season and 22nd Gateway Football Conference year. MSU was in the NCAA College Division from 1956 until Division II was established in 1974. League affiliations have included the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1924-81), Mid-Continent (1981-84) and Gateway (1985-05). Missouri State has had winning seasons 11 of 25 FCS years, and reached FCS playoffs in 1989 and 1990. The 1989 and 1990 seasons included the Bears’ only league (Gateway) titles since moving to FCS. The 2005 season marks the 23rd year for Gateway competition in what has become the top FCS league in the country. The Gateway:

l Has had two or more teams in the FCS playoffs each of the last 12 years.

l Has had a playoff semifinalist eight of the last 11 years.

l Is the only FCS league in which every league member has had at least one playoff appearance.

l Owns national titles from Youngstown State (1997) and Western Kentucky (2002).

l Became the first FCS league to put four teams in the playoffs the same year (2003).

l Had both the I-AA National Coach of the Year (Jerry Kill of SIU) and the I-AA National Player of the Year (Boomer Grigsby of Illinois State) in 2004.

 Missouri State All-Time: Missouri State is in its 96th football season with a mark of 421-420-40 (.501) for 881 games. The Bears first played in 1909 and have had a team all but three years since. MSU has had 45 winning seasons, 47 losing seasons and three .500 years. The longest MSU string of consecutive winning seasons is five, done three times (1947-51, ’62-66, ’89-93). The Bears’ most recent winning seasons were 2001 and 2004.

Missouri State in 2006: In their first year under head coach Terry Allen, the Bears finished with a 2-9 season record and were 1-6 in Gateway Football Conference play. Missouri State beat Southwest Baptist in its home opener and clipped GFC foe Western Illinois in the home season finale for the team’s only wins. Missouri State lost four games by a touchdown or less and dropped another contest by 10 points. Two seniors--free safety Mike Radon and offensive tackle Justin Williamson--shared the football Coors Player of the Year honor. Radon led the team in interceptions and was third in total tackles while Williamson was the line’s top graded blocker throughout the campaign. The Bears began the year with an entirely new quarterback corps and had injuries at that position to compound the inexperience. Matt Krapfl and Tyler Horner, both redshirt freshmen in 2006, wound up starting four games each as the team’s signal-caller. Missouri State had 25 seniors on its ballclub in 2006.

NFL Bears: Missouri State has two players on current NFL rosters, including OL Jason Whittle (Bills) and LS/TE Brad St. Louis (Bengals). Whittle spent four years with the Giants, including an appearance in the 2002 Super Bowl. He spent a year with Tampa Bay and two more with the Giants before moving to Minnesota last year and Buffalo this year. St. Louis is in his eighth year with the Bengals.

Personnel: The Bears are young. Half the 90 squad members hadn’t played in a Missouri State game before last week, and 29 of the Bears who played vs. UMR were in their first game for Missouri State, including 24 freshmen. Of the rookies, 14 were redshirt freshmen and 10 were true freshmen. There are 26 lettermen back from last season. QB Matt Krapfl, QB Tyler Horner, OC David Tillman, WR Jeremy Nicholson, WR Chris Geisz, FB Jeff Sargent and WR Eric Davis on offense and LB Jeron Poole and CB Marcus Colbert on defense are returning regulars from last year. Geisz has moved from wide receiver to the defensive secondary this year.

Captains: The Bears’ 2007 captains include LB Jeron Poole, CB Marcus Colbert, TB Gerald Davis and OC David Tillman. All are seniors.


 l  The UMR win was the first time since 2004 Missouri State had won its season opener. MSU is 12-14 in season openers in Division I FCS. In beating the Miners, the Bears won their home opener for the 10th year in a row and are 20-4-2 in home openers in FCS. The all-time Missouri State record in season openers is 48-45-3.

 l The UMR contest saw 29 Bears make their college playing debuts, including 24 freshmen. Ten of the rookies were true freshmen and the others were redshirts.

 l  The Bears rolled up their highest point total team since a 63-14 win over Drake in 2001.

 l TB Gerald Davis tied a Missouri State record shared by nine others with four rushing TDs in the contest. He had 110 yards on 15 carries and also caught one pass to gain selection of the Missouri State Coors Player of the Week and the Gateway Offensive Player of the Week. With Jonathan Davis getting 113 yards on 19 carries, it was the first time two Bears had gained 100 or more yards on the ground in a contest in four seasons.

 l  WR Tamarkus McElvane had four catches for 139 yards for the most receiving yards for a Bear since 2005. It was also a career best for McElvane at Missouri State. WR Eric Davis had five receptions for 76 yards, matching his career best for receptions while setting a new best in receiving yards for a game.

 l  In the game, the Bears scored touchdowns on nine of their 14 possessions. They turned the pigskin over three times and had the ball at the end of each half on the other five possessions. Missouri State did not punt in the contest.

 l  With 28 points in the first quarter, the Bears tied the MSU record for points in a first quarter, set in 1992 vs. Washburn.

 l The Bears’ 690 total yards tied the third best single game total on record at MSU. The 35 first downs were within one of a single game team record.

 l Defensively, the Bears went three units deep with LB Sam Block and LB Dan Graham coming up with pass interceptions while CB Derek Miller recovered a fumble. LB Jeron Poole and Block led the way with six tackles each. UMR was held to 206 yards in offense.



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