Football Bears to host #22 Illinois State Saturday
The Missouri State football Bears hit the midpoint of their 2007 season schedule and bid to even their Gateway Football Conference record when they play host to the Illinois State Redbirds Saturday (Oct. 29) at 2:07 p.m. in Gateway action at Plaster Field.
Saturday is one of just two home games in a seven-week span from early September to late October in which Missouri State plays five of seven on the road. The Bears come home to stay Oct. 27 with their final three games at Plaster Field. After hosting Illinois State, the Bears go to Western Illinois Oct. 13 and to Southern Illinois Oct. 20 before returning home for the last three games.
Saturday’s Missouri State-Illinois State game will air on Gateway Football Conference TV package with Mitch Holthus, Danan Hughes and Stephanie Follett describing the action. The game will air on FCS Atlantic (2 pm live), Fox College Sports, WYZZ (Bloomington/Normal) (2 pm live) Mediacom (Springfield) (7 pm taped) Comcast SportsNet Chicago (12 noon - Oct. 7 - taped) FSN Midwest (2 am taped - Oct. 7) FSN Midwest (12 noon - Oct. 10 - taped)
Missouri State is bidding to get back to the .500 mark in league play after a 49-21 loss Saturday at two-time defending Gateway champ and 10th-ranked Youngstown State in the conference opener for both teams. Missouri State will also be looking for its fourth straight home victory and will bid to keep the current 3-2 season standard on the win side. The Bears opened the season with wins over Divison II Missouri-Rolla (62-17) and FCS 16th-ranked Tennessee-Martin (51-44), lost 61-10 at Kansas State of the Big 12 Conference, and got a come-from-behind 42-38 home win over Central Arkansas before opening league play at Youngstown State.
Illinois State opened its season with a home loss to Drake. The Redbirds then beat Murray State and won at Eastern Illinois before dropping a 38-17 decision at Missouri. Illinois State faltered in the fourth quarter Saturday in a 23-13 home loss to pre-season Gateway favorite #3Northern Iowa in the league opener for both clubs. ISU comes to Springfield Saturday with a 2-3 season record.
Illinois State’s program has shown steady improvement in recent years under coach Denver Johnson. The Panthers last year finished 9-4 and were tied for second in the GFC at 5-2. Illinois State got a first-round NCAA FCS playoff win over Eastern Illinois last year before losing to Youngstown State in the quarterfinals. Illinois State was ranked eighth in the final 2006 FCS poll.
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 for the Sun Belt Conference.
The Bears have nothing but day games the rest of the season after opening with four straight at night and a 5 p.m. start Saturday at Youngstown State.
The Coaches: Terry Allen (UNI, ’76) is 5-11 with the Bears in his second year at Missouri State; 100-70 overall in his 15th year as a college head coach. He’s 7-3 vs. ISU. (Allen detailed bio and Missouri State and Gateway win lists attached).
Denver Johnson (Tulsa, ’81) is 43-42 in his seventh year at ISU and 64-54 in his 11th year overall as a college head coach. Johnson is 6-1 vs. MSU.
Series record: Illinois State leads, 14-12 with one tie. ISU has had much the better of things in recent years with five straight wins and seven wins in its last eight meetings with Missouri State. MSU last won vs. the Redbirds at home in 2001. MSU had won eight straight and 11 of 13 from Illinois State (1986-98) before the Redbirds made a decisive turnaround in the series. The series began in 1971 with four meetings, all ISU wins, and resumed in 1983. (series scores attached).
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 423-422-40 (.5001) for 885 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 UMR, 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 Bears’ 3-2 record includes the four-point win Sept. 22 over Central Arkansas and a seven-point win at Tennessee-Martin Sept. 6. Last year Missouri State was 1-5 in games decided by 10 points or less.
l The loss at Youngstown State Sept. 29 was the Bears’ sixth loss in six trips to Stambaugh Stadium and Missouri State is now 1-11 all-time against the Penguins.
l TB Gerald Davis and QB Cody Kirby each ran for a TD at Youngstown State. Through five games, Davis and Kirby have scored seven TDs each. Last year’s individual leader for the 11-game season was Jeremy Nicholson with four touchdowns.
l WR Jeremy Nicholson has had four career games with more than the 51 yards receiving he had at YSU Sept. 29, but his seven catches vs. the Penguins set a new career high. Nicholson scored the Bears’ third TD at YSU, marking his seventh career scoring reception. (career receiving statistics attached).
l The Bears’ Sept. 15 game at Kansas State was played before a crowd of 46,825 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. That marks the third largest crowd ever to watch a Bears’ football game, topped only by Missouri State’s visits to Arkansas in 2001 and 2005. The Bears’ top 15 and 18 of their top 21 all-time crowds have come against FBS teams. The 19,617 at YSU Sept. 29 was the 17th largest MSU crowd.
l With their 3-2 start, the Bears are getting support in FCS polls for the first time in many years, but have fallen from the top 40 after last week’s loss. The Bears’ point totals had them ranged from 28th to 38th in four polls Sept. 24, 29th to 39th Sept. 17 and between 25th and 34th Sept. 10.
l The Bears started 2-0 with a lot of offense on Thursdays. The Bears’ win over No. 16 Tennessee-Martin was their first win over a ranked FCS team since a home win over Northern Iowa in 2005. It was also the Bears’ first road win since Oct. 16, 2004, and ended a string of 11 straight Missouri State losses away from Springfield. The Bears were also 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2004, and the Bears owned the longest active win streak in the Gateway at three before losing at Kansas State.
l At 3-2, the Bears have topped their win total of all of last year in a 2-9 season. They went into Gateway play with just one non-conference loss for the sixth time in the past seven years. The only year in which the Bears had more than one non-conference loss was 2006.
l The win over #16 Tennessee-Martin came over the defending Ohio Valley Conference champs, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff team last year. The win over Central Arkansas settled the score for a 16-14 loss at UCA last year and evened the series between the Bears and the Bears at 3-3.
l The offensive free-for-all at UTM took three and a half hours to complete and marked the fifth highest combined point total for two teams in a game in the 96-year, 882-game history of Missouri State football. It was the most points an MSU team has ever allowed in a victory, the most a UTM team has ever scored in a loss, and it was the highest point total for a Bear ballclub in a game since . . . 62 against Missouri-Rolla the previous week. It was the first time the Bears have put 50-point games back-to-back since 1978 and also the most points MSU has scored in consecutive games since 1978.
l The two ballclubs amassed 987 total yards between them in the contest with UTM owning a 542-435 advantage for the night but the Bears got some key stops deep in their own territory, protected the football all night and were penalized nearly 100 fewer yards than UTM.
l Offense was still the order of the day Sept. 22 against UCA. The Bears and the Bears amassed 1,052 yards, with UCA having a 562-490 edge.
l Freshman QB Cody Kirby was the Gateway Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the UCA game. He hit 22-of-38 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns and carried nine times for 40 yards and three more touchdowns, including the game-winner with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It was a complete game effort by Kirby in his first collegiate start. He became only the 12th Missouri State quarterback to complete 22 or more passes in a game.
l MSU guards David Arkin and Seth Reichert shared the Gateway Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week honor vs. UCA. Each graded out at 92 percent in blocking assignments, had nine pancakes and allowed no sacks.
l LB Jeron Poole was in on 14 tackles vs. UCA, single-game high for an MSU player this season. LB Jeremy Dawson and CB Derek Miller were in on a dozen stops each and LB Sam Block had 10.
l Bears’ senior K Nathan Stokes was named Gateway Football Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and MSU Coors Player of the Week for his performance at UTM. Stokes provided a record-tying 15 points on three field goals and six extra points against the Skyhawks. Stokes was perfect in his nine placement attempts as his 15 points tied a Missouri State single game kick scoring record set by Richard Grote in 1990 vs. Indiana State and tied by Wayne Boyer in 1996 vs. Tennessee-Martin. Stokes’s three field goals tied his career best in that department, matching the trio he kicked last year at Indiana State, and his 44-yarder in the final period was five yards longer than his previous career long. Stokes also had two punts for 31.5 yards and gained six yards for a first down on a fake punt.
l Defensively at UTM, the Bears got nine solo stops among 13 tackles by LB Jeron Poole while CB Derek Miller had nine stops and LB Sam Block eight.
l Gateway teams enjoyed three straight 5-2 weeks before opening conference play last weekend. The loss by Western Illinois to future Gateway member North Dakota State Sept. 29 dropped league schools to 19-10 against outside opposition this season.
l In their first two games, the Bears had the football 27 times. They scored on 18 of those possessions (15 TDs, 3 field goals), punted twice, turned the ball over three times and had the ball when time expired at the end of a half four times.
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 Against Missouri-Rolla, 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 UMR contest. He had 110 yards on 15 carries and also caught a pass to get selection as 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 vs. UMR 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. McElvane came back with 10 receptions for 109 yards against UCA, marking the first time a Missouri State player had had double-digit receptions in a game since Steve Rush did it three times in 2004.
l In the UMR 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 For fans who like to get comfortable and watch offense, Bear games this year are the place to be. Sept. 29 at YSU, 70 points were scored in 3 hours. Sept. 22 vs. UCA, 80 points were scored in 3 hours, 20 minutes. Sept. 15 at Kansas State, 71 points were scored in 3 hours, 31 minutes. Sept. 6 at UTM, 95 points were scored in 3 hours, 25 minutes. And, the season opener vs. Missouri-Rolla saw 79 points scored in a speedy two hours, 50 minutes. MSU and its opponents have accounted for 63 scoring plays (52 TDs, 11 FGs), an average of 12.5 scores a game. In 2006, The Bears’ and their foes averaged 7.6 scoring plays over the 11-game season.
l And, for all the offensive fireworks, the games haven’t been full of giveaways. In five games, the Bears have turned the ball over six times (4 int., 2 fum.) and their combined foes have surrendered it six times (3 int., 3 fum.)
l With 28 points in the first quarter vs. UMR, the Bears tied the MSU record for points in the first quarter of a game, set in 1992 vs. Washburn.
l The Bears’ 690 total yards vs. UMR tied the third best single game total on record at MSU. The 35 first downs were within one of a single game team record.