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Bears Host Murray State at Plaster Field Saturday at 3 p.m.



 Murray State Racers (1-1) at

Missouri State Bears (1-1)

Sept. 19, 2009, 3:00 p.m.

Plaster Field (16,300), Springfield, Mo.


Today's Game: The Missouri State Bears continue their three-game home stand this Saturday when they welcome the Racers of Murray State University to Plaster Field. Game time is set for 3 p.m.

 This will be the sixth meeting between the two programs, but first meeting since 1985 when the Racers made their only previous trip to Plaster Field and defeated the Bears 36-21. 

 The Racers, from the Ohio Valley Conference, come to town riding a one-game losing streak after suffering a 65-7 defeat before more than 55,000 fans at North Carolina State on Sept. 12.  Murray State was held to just 36 total yards and five first downs in the game, including two by penalty, and ran just 45 offensive plays against the Division I FBS Wolfpack.  Nico Yantko completed 8-of-19 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown to lead Murray State, while Prince Nwagbara and Charlie Jordan combined for 17 rushes for 33 yards.  

 This is the first time the Bears have ever played Ohio Valley Conference teams in back-to-back weeks after defeating fellow OVC member Tennessee-Martin at Plaster Field on Sept. 12 by a 24-14 score. Missouri Valley Football Conference schools are 40-16 all-time against Ohio Valley Conference teams.

 Missouri State improved to 9-1 this decade in home openers with the win over UT Martin. The Bears came up with a series of key defensive stops to hold the Skyhakws to just 14 points and mark the lowest scoring output by an MSU opponent in 15 games. The Bears used a balanced attack to account for 185 rushing yards and three ground touchdowns, including scores by Jonathan Davis (Jr., TB, Tampa, Fla.), Mikael Cooper-Falls (Fr., TB, Springfield, Mo.) and Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.).

 Overall, Missouri State is 433-435-39 (.499) in 97 seasons all-time, including a 193-142-12 (.573) record in 67 seasons at Plaster Field, 63-86-1 (.423) mark in MVFC play, and 146-149-3 (.495) record at the NCAA Division I FCS level.

The Series: Murray State leads the all-time series 5-0, although the teams have not met since playing in four straight seasons from 1982-85.  The teams also met in 1942.  All but one of the previous five match-ups have been played in Murray, Ky., with the Racers defeating the Bears 36-21 at Plaster Field on Oct. 26, 1985 in the only previous game played in Springfield.  Murray State has outscored the Bears by a 133 (26.6) to 71 (14.2) margin during the series.

 In the 1985 game, Murray State punched up 29 points in a span of just six minutes in the third quarter to overcome an early 14-7 Bears' lead. Tom Leeker completed 9-of-14 passes for 96 yards for Missouri State, while Keith Williams rushed for a team-high 51 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.

The Coaches: Missouri State head coach Terry Allen (Northern Iowa, 1976) is 108-81 (.571) overall in his 17th season as a head coach.  Allen is  13-22 (.371) in his fourth season at Missouri State.  He is also 86-45 (.656) in Missouri Valley Football Conference games, including his tenure at Northern Iowa (1989-96).  Allen is 1-0 against Racers with a 35-34 win in Murray during the NCAA FCS playoffs in 1995 while at UNI.

 With the Bears, Allen is 9-9 at home, 4-13 away, 6-15 in conference play (4-7 at home), 7-7 in non-conference games (5-2 at home), 1-0 in overtime, 0-1 in shutouts, and 6-7 in games decided by 10 points or less.

 Coach Allen spent 10 years as an assistant coach at UNI (1979-88) before taking over the head coaching duties there in 1989 where he spent the next eight seasons (1989-96). He was 72-26 at UNI and five-time MVFC Coach of the Year, taking the Panthers to the NCAA FCS playoffs seven straight years. He took over the head coaching duties at Kansas in 1997 and was 20-33 in five years with the Big 12 Jayhawks (1997-2001). Prior to coming to MSU, he spent four seasons (2002-05) as associate head coach at Iowa State.

 Murray State head coach Matt Griffin (New Hampshire, 1992) is 9-27 (.611) in his fourth season with the Racers and 19-51 in seven seasons overall as a head coach, including three seasons at UT Martin (2003-05).  His team is coming off a 5-7 season in which it went 1-5 on the road, but managed an even 4-4 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference (fifth).

 Griffin has never coached against Missouri State.

First and Ten:  Ten Missouri state quick hits relating to today's game:

  • At 42.5 yards per punt, Missouri State is now the NCAA Division I FBS leader in net punting.
  • All-America Tight end Clay Harbor has at least one pass reception in 24 straight games. That streak is now the second-longest string in Bears' history (the record is 33 by Jason Cannon, 1995-97). He is ranked as the top tight end in FCS football by Phil Steele's ranking service.
  • Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.) needs 34 passing yards to reach 4,000 in his career. He would be the fourth Bear to reach that milestone. He has thrown fourth-quarter TD passes in seven of Missouri State's last 10 games.   
  • The Bears have no players from the state of Kentucky, however Murray State has 10 players from Missouri. Murray's 10 players from the Show-Me State include eight from the St. Louis area and two from Charleston High in southeast Missouri. The St. Louis players represent the following high schools: Westminster Christian Academy (2), Kirkwood, Soldan, Roosevelt, Hazelwood West, McCluer North, and St. Francis Borgia in Washington.
  • The Bears will not have a home night gamesthis season. This has not happened at MSU since 1950.
  • The Bears have never defeated the Racers in five previous meetings.  However, this will be just the second-ever meeting between the two programs in Springfield and first match-up in 24 years (1985). 
  • With its win over UT Martin last Saturday, the Bears snapped a two-game home losing streak that dated back to the team's Oct. 11, 2008 win over Youngstown State.
  • This will be Missouri State's 299th game as a Division I program (146-149-3).
  • Missouri State's transition to a 3-4 defense this season has paid great dividends.  The team's starting four linebackers have accounted for 57 total tackles in the first two games, including a team-high 20 stops by newcomer Antoine Wilkinson (Jr., Magnolia, Miss.).
  • MSU head coach Terry Allen defeated the Racers in the NCAA-I FCS playoffs as head coach of the UNI Panthers in 1995. The Panthers topped Murray State 35-34 in Murray, Ky., before falling to Marshall in the quarterfinals.

Radio: All Missouri State Bears games can be heard on KTXR, Springfield (101.3 FM), the flagship station of the Missouri State Bears Football Radio Network. Play-by-play man Art Hains will provide the game description. Color commentary duties will be split this between third-year commentator Scott Opfer and KYTV Sports Director Ned Reynolds.  Opfer will handle seven dates, while Reynolds will work the Sept. 5, Sept. 12, Oct. 3 and Oct. 24 games.

 Hains first began calling Bears' action in 1977 and is in his second stint and 30th season overall as the Voice of the Bears. He called Bears games from 1977-81 and returned to that post in 1985. The Murray State game is Art's 312th MSU football broadcast.

 MSU football can also be heard on the seven-station, Missouri State Bears Football Radio Network on the following affiliates:  Ava - KKOZ (92.1 FM/1430 AM); Jefferson City - KJMO (97.5); Kansas City - KCWJ (1030 AM); Monett - KKBL (95.9 FM); Poplar Bluff - KLID (1340 AM); St. Louis - KFNS (100.7 FM); and Springfield - KTXR (101.3 FM) (flagship).

On-Line: Select games this season will be shown on Missouri State's on-line video channel -- Bears Live!  Bears Live is a premium, broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand Missouri State streaming video & audio. This broadband video channel is the ultimate place for Bears fans on the web and can be accessed through www.MissouriStateBears.com, the official web site of Missouri State Athletics. The Murray State game is part of the BearsLive! season package.

 Links to live game stats, and the free audio stream (through www.RadioSpringfield.com) can be found on this week's game notes page on www.MissouriStateBears.com or at the Fan Central link on the home page.

Television:  Today's game will be shown on Mediacom Connections (Channel 22 locally) and the Missouri Sports Cable Network throughout the state of Missouri, on a tape-delayed basis.  Play-by-play man Don West will call the action, while Mike McClure is the color commentator for the games, and Corey Riggs is executive producer.

Last Game:  Missouri State's defense stepped up its pressure on visiting Tennessee-Martin in the second half, as the Bears overcame three turnovers to secure a 24-14 win over the Skyhawks. It was the fewest points allowed by Missouri State's defense in 15 games as the Bears improved to 1-1 on the season.

 After the Bears built a 17-7 halftime lead, UT Martin drove 44 yards to the Missouri State 16 on its opening possession of the third quarter only to miss a 33-yard field goal. The Bears responded by driving 80 yards on 12 plays for their third touchdown of the day on a nine-yard carry by Mikael Cooper-Falls (Fr., TB, Springfield, Mo.) to make it 24-7.

 The Skyhawks battled 78 yards on 13 plays on their next possession for the final score of the game, a one-yard touchdown run by Tevin Barksdale, to make it 24-14.   But, the Bears forced UTM into another missed field goal, their third of the game, in the fourth quarter and later got a a fourth-down stop on the Missouri State 25 with 4:14 to play.

 The Skyhawks outgained the Bears 322-288, but Missouri State's ground attack produced 185 yards on 45 carries, including a team-besrt 54 yards by Miguel Warren (Sr., TB, Raytown, Mo.), to control the clock.  With the ground success, the Bears threw only 16 times on the afternoon, as Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.) completed nine attempts for 103 yards -- and just 20 yards in the second half -- with one interception. 

 The Bears had several stars on defense, including linebackers Adam Beauchamp (Jr., Prescott Valley, Ariz.), Antoine Wilkinson (Jr., Magnolia, Miss.), and Michael Keck (So., Harrisonville, Mo.).  Beauchamp had a team-high 10 tackles, while Wilkinson posted nine stops. Keck had nine total tackles, six solos, and two tackles for loss.

Team Captains:  Missouri State will have five co-captains for the 2009 season, including a pair of seniors and three juniors.  The Bears' 2009 Bears includes tight end Clay Harbor (Sr., Dwight, Ill.), cornerback Cedric Alvis (Sr., Columbia, Mo.), guard David Arkin (Jr., Wichita, Kan.), quarterback Cody Kirby (Jr., Rogers, Ark.), and safety Skylar Smith (Jr., Springfield, Mo.).  Kirby was also a co-captain in 2008, which made him just the third MSU sophomore captain since 1953 (joining Corky Martin, 1999, and Kevin Sears, 2005).

Scouting Murray State: The Racers boast some of the nation's best special teams performers in punt returner Derrick Townsel (Sr., WR), who is the third-best in the nation at 23.2 yards per return.  MSU also has one of the nation's top kickoff returners in Sept. 5th's National Special Teams Player of the Week Marcus Harris (Jr., WR) who is 16th in kickoff returns (29.2).

 The Racers' season has been a story of opposites with a decisive 66-10 win over Division II Kentucky Wesleyan in the team's opener before getting overmatched by North Carolina State, 65-7, on Sept. 12.  The team now averages 85.5 yards per game on the ground and 90.5 yards per game through the air, while surrendering 171.5 and 152.5 yards per game in rushing and passing, respectively.

 Saturday's game against the Bears will be Murray State's first 2009 game against an NCAA Division I FCS opponent.

About Missouri State: Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive university system with a mission in public affairs, whose purpose is to develop educated persons while achieving five goals: democratizing society, incubating new ideas, imagining Missouri's future, making Missouri's future, and modeling ethical and effective behavior. With an enrollment of 21,688, MSU is the second-largest institution for higher learning in Missouri, and its identity is distinguished by its statewide mission in public affairs. This mission requires a campus-wide commitment to foster competence and responsibility in the common vocation of citizenship.  Missouri State University-Springfield is a selective admissions, graduate level teaching and research institution.

 Missouri State competes at the NCAA Division I level and is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference with affiliate membership in the Mid-American Conference for field hockey and men's swimming and diving.

 Notable Missouri State alums include: Ryan Howard (first baseman, Philadelphia Phillies), John Goodman (actor), Kathleen Turner (actress), David Glass (owner, Kansas City Royals), John Q. Hammons (businessman, hotel developer), Bob Holden (43rd governor of Missouri), Bill Mueller (2003 American League batting champ), Jackie Stiles (NCAA Division I women's basketball career scoring leader), and Blake Ahearn (NBA D-League MVP and All-Star Game co-MVP).

Streaks and Milestones: Clay Harbor needs 2 receptions for 100 in his career ... Tyler Horner needs 2 passing yards for 1,000 in his career ... Cody Kirby needs 34 passing yards to reach 4,000 in his career ... Kirby also needs 34 rushing yards for 500 in his career ... Skylar Smith needs 3 tackles for 100 in his career ... Byron Hightower needs 11 tackles for 100 in his career.

Starting to Become a Habit:  Four Bears have started at least 10 consecutive games. Leading the list is Clay Harbor (Sr., TE, Dwight, Ill.) with 25 straight starts, followed by David Arkin (Jr., OG, Wichita, Kan.) 24, Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.), 21, and Cedric Alvis (Sr., CB, Columbia, Mo.) 13.

 Overall, MSU returns five offensive starters from last season -- Harbor, Arkin, Kirby, Brent Chojnacki (Jr., OC, Olathe, Kan.) and Justin Fuselier (Jr., WR, Tulsa, Okla.). The Bears also return four regular defensive starters -- Alvis, Waylon Richardet (Jr., DT, Perryville, Mo.), Byron Hightower (Jr., LB, Raytown, Mo.), and Skylar Smith (Jr., S, Springfield, Mo.).

Kirby Home Demonstration:  Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.) has enjoyed great success at Plaster Field during his time at MSU.  In 12 career home games, including 11 starts, Kirby has thrown for 2,318 yards (193.2) and 17 touchdown passes, including seven 200-yard performances. The Bears are 6-5 in Kirby starts at home and 9-12 in his 21 starts overall. He has been the MSU quarterback in 114 of the team's 119 plays this season.

Honors Continue for Tight End Harbor: Bears' tight end Clay Harbor (Sr., Dwight, Ill.) continues to collect preseason All-America honors from various publications and organizations.

 During the 2009 preseason, he has been named to All-America teams by The Sports Network, College Sporting News, Consensus Draft Services, and Lindy's College Football Preview. 

 After collecting 40 receptions for 457 yards in 2008, Harbor earned Associated Press FCS All-America second-team honors.  Harbor is a two-time, first-team All-MVFC pick as well as twice being recognized on the AP All-America list, including a third-team honor in 2007. He was also named to the Sports Network Fab 50.

 Harbor is also ranked as the No. 12 overall player -- and top tight end -- in the NCAA FCS, according to the ranking source for Phil Steele.  The top 20 players are:  1. QB Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State, Sr.; 2. WR/RS Andre' Roberts, The Citadel, Sr.; 3. QB Cameron Higgins, Weber State, Jr.; 4. WR Terrell Hudgins, Elon, Sr.; 5. FS Mark LeGree, Appalachian State, Jr.; 6. DE Larry Hart, Central Arkansas, Sr.; 7. QB Dominic Randolph, Holy Cross, Sr.; 8. RS Leroy Vann, Florida A&M, Sr.; 9. RB Trevyn Smith, Weber State, Sr.; 10. OT James Williams, Harvard, Sr.; 11. DE James Ruffin, Northern Iowa, Sr.; 12. TE Clay Harbor, Missouri State, Sr.; 13. OG Matthew McCracken, Richmond, Sr.; 14. WR/RS Marc Mariani, Montana, Sr.; 15. TE Scott Sicko, New Hampshire, Sr.; 16. RS Scotty McGee, James Madison, Sr.; 17. OT Vladimir Ducasse, UMASS, Sr.; 18. RB William Ford, South Carolina State, Sr.; 19. DE Austen Lane, Murray State, Sr.; 20. DT Mychal Savage, Youngstown State, Sr.

MSU Player of the Week:  Michael Keck (So., LB, Harrisonville, Mo.) was named Missouri State Player of the Week for the Bears win over UT Martin in the home opener on Sept. 12.

 Keck sparked Missouri State's defense to a convincing 24-14 win over Tennessee-Martin Saturday in the Bears' home opener.  It was the fewest points allowed by the Bears in a 15-game span.  Keck tallied 9 tackles, including 6 solos and had a team-high two tackles for loss.  In addition to the two TFL's, the outside linebacker pinned the Skyhawks at their own 15 yard line with a thundering tackle after just an 8 yard kickoff return, and later had a major stop on first-and-goal. 

 In 2008, Cody Kirby (QB, Rogers, Ark.) was named 2008 Missouri State Coors Player of the Year after earning second-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Honors and throwing for 2,014 yards and 15 touchdowns, finishing second in the league in total offense and 53rd nationally. He led the Bears to three fourth-quarter go-ahead or tying scores in 2008.  Coors is no longer sponsoring the MSU Player of the Week and Player of the Year awards.

MVFC Preseason All-Conference Team: The Missouri Valley Football Conference released its preseason all-conference team on July 20 at its annual Media Day festivities in St. Louis.

 Three Bears were named to the Missouri Valley Football Preseason Team, including Clay Harbor (Sr., TE, Dwight, Ill.), David Arkin (Jr., OG, Wichita, Kan.) and honorable mention selection Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.).

 Harbor, a preseason All-America pick by several agencies, snagged 40 receptions for 457 yards in 2008 for the Bears, both tops on the squad, and earned Associated Press FCS All-America second-team honors.  Harbor is a two-time, first-team All-MVFC pick as well as twice being recognized on the AP All-America list.

 Arkin was named a preseason Third-Team All-America pick at offensive guard by the Sports Network. He graded out at 86 percent during the 2008 season, starting all 11 games at offensive guard. He was named the team's Offensive Lineman of the Week four times in 2008, also gaining the squad's Offensive Player of the Week distinction twice. He was a 2008 All-Valley preseason selection in addition to being named to the league's All-Newcomer Team and Second-Team All-Conference squads the past two seasons.

 Kirby, who found a spot on the MVFC Preseason Team as an honorable mention pick, earned All-Valley second-team honors as a sophomore in 2008 after throwing for 2,104 yards and 15 touchdowns while posting 2,227 yards of total offense and scoring nine touchdowns. At 183.1 yards per game, he is the league's top returning passer and No. 2 returnee in total offense (202.5 ypg). Kirby was the league's preseason All-Valley quarterback in 2008 and was the 2007 MVFC Freshman of the Year.

Individual Statistical Leaders: The following active Missouri State players rank among the Missouri Valley Football Conference's top 20 individual performers in the categories indicated:

  • Cody Kirby ranks eighth in passing efficiency (90.19), and 10th in total offense (100.0).
  • Jonathan Davis ranks tied for 8th in scoring (6.00)
  • Matt Hottleman is tied for third in field goals (1.0)).
  • Miguel Warren ranks 4th in kickoff return yards (20.75)
  • Antoine Wilkinson ranks 13th in tackles (10.0).
  • Clay Harbor ranks tied for 15th in pass receptions (3.0) and 12th in receiving yards (41.0)
  • Jimmie Strong is tied for 6th in interceptions (0.5).
  • As a team, the Bears rank 1st in net punting (42.5), and third in kickoff returns (23.29).

Valley All-Time Football Team: As a part of the Missouri Valley Football Conference Silver Anniversary Celebration, fans are invited to participate in the selection of the Valley's All-Time Football Team. The ballots are accessible through the the Missouri Valley Football Conference web site or at www.Valley-Football25.org.  (one ballot per site visit).

 There are 14 Bears on the ballot, including:  DeAndre Smith (QB, 1987-90), Clay Harbor (TE, 2006-present), Brad St. Louis (TE, 1996-99), Mark Christensen (OL, 1986-89), Matt Irvin (OL, 1989-92), Wayne Boyer (PK ,1993-96), Travis Brawner (PK, 1997-99), Jon Scifres (PK, 2002-05), Michael Fox (DL, 1989-90), Bill Waler (DL, 1988-91), DeLaun Fowler (LB, 1992-95), Matt Soraghan (LB, 1985-87), Adrion Smith (DB, 1989-91), and Marcus Shipp (DB, 1989-91).

MVFC All-Select NFL Team: Former Missouri State football Bears Brad St. Louis and Jason Whittle have been named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference "All-Select NFL Team," the league announced Monday (July 20) in St. Louis.

 Whittle, most recently an offensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills, is preparing for his 12th NFL year in 2009. He signed a free agent contract in the 2003 off-season with the New York Giants. He later moved to the Minnesota Vikings for the 2006 campaign before joining the Bills in 2007. An offensive and defensive line standout at Missouri State from 1994-97, Whittle signed with the Giants in 1998 and was a regular lineman and deep snapper for the team. His play in the 2001 Super Bowl was the first time an MSU product had played in the NFL title game.

 St. Louis is entering his 10th year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, making him the longest-tenured player on the Bengals' roster. He starred for MSU at tight end from 1996-99 and played in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl after his senior MSU season prior to signing with Cincinnati.  He has operated as the Bengals' regular deep snapper each of the past six seasons with additional work at tight end.

 The team includes 35 players from current and former MVFC schools. The team includes four NFL MVPs, 15 Pro-Bowl selections and other 23 Super Bowl appearances by 12 players.  Sixteen former league players are active in the NFL.

National Leaders:  As a team, the Bears rank 1st nationally in net punting (42.5) and 31st in kickoff returns (23.29), but also have several individuals already ranking high nationally.  Cody Kirby (Jr., QB, Rogers, Ark.) ranks 81st in pass efficiency (90.19), while Miguel Warren (Sr., TB, Raytown, Mo.) ranks 57th in kickoff returns (20.75), and Jonathan Davis (Jr., TB, Tampa, Fla.) is tied for 78th in scoring (6.0).  Jimmie Strong (So., CB, Texarkana, Texas) is tied for 45th in interceptions (0.5), while Matt Hottelman (Sr., K, O'Fallon, Mo.) is tied for 27th in field goals (1.00).  

Postseason History: The Bears have appeared in three postseason games during their NCAA Division I era (1982-present).

 In 1989, the Bears were ranked No. 9 in the FCS poll when they hosted Maine at Plaster Field on November 25.  A 33-yard field goal by Chris Potthast with eight seconds left gave MSU a 38-35 win and sent the Bears to the national quarterfinals at Stephen F. Austin.

 The Bears gave up 613 yards in total offense at SFA and fell 55-25, despite trailing just 23-10 at the half. MSU finished the year with a 10-3 record, by far their best in the era.

 In 1990, MSU hosted No. 13 Idaho at Plaster Field in the first round of the playoffs.  After a field goal by Richard Grote on the first play of the fourth quarter tied the game, 35-35, the Bears gave up field goals of 29 and 50 yards later in the quarter, and the potential game-winning drive stalled at the Idaho 45 with 30 seconds remaining in a 41-35 defeat.

 Prior to their Division I days, the Bears appeared in three bowl games, falling 34-20 to Emporia State in the 1948 Mo-Kan Bowl, dropping a 21-14 decision to Northern Illinois in the 1963 Mineral Water Bowl, and coming up short, 14-8, to Adams State in the 1966 Mineral Water Bowl.

 MSU is 1-5 all-time in postseason.

Up Next: The Bears host Northern Iowa next Saturday at 1 p.m. on Family Weekend at Missouri State.



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