Football Bears host No. 1-ranked UNI Saturday
The Missouri State football Bears will host the unbeaten, top-ranked and league-leading University of Northern Iowa Panthers in Gateway Football Conference action Saturday at Plaster Field. Kickoff for the contest will be at 1 p.m.
A win for the UNI Panthers (8-0, 4-0) in the contest will give UNI at least a share of the 2007 Gateway title and assure the Panthers of receiving the league’s automatic bid into next month’s NCAA FCS playoff bracket by virtue of their wins over Southern Illinois and Western Illinois; the only teams left in the league with only one conference loss.
UNI is the top-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision for the third week in a row. It marks the first time Missouri State has played or hosted the nation’s top-ranked team since the Bears met Southern Illinois 10/15/83 when the Salukis were top-ranked in I-AA. SIU won that meeting 24-6.
The Bears are in the middle game of a three-game homestand to close their 2007 season and Saturday’s game will be the Bears’ sixth and final Gateway outing of the campaign. The Bears came home Oct. 27 after a seven-week span which started in early September in which they played five of seven games on the road. After hosting UNI Saturday, the Bears close their season in non-league action Nov. 10 against Southeast Missouri State.
Missouri State got back on the winning track and again moved above the .500 mark for the season at 5-4 last Saturday, snapping its only two-game losing streak of the season with a 63-7 league win over Indiana State at Plaster Field. The Bears had fallen from 4-2 to 4-4 with road setbacks at #19 Western Illinois (31-10) and #10 Southern Illinois (45-10) the two previous weeks. At 2-3 in the league, Missouri State has to win Saturday against UNI to finish at .500 in Gateway play. The Bears lost 49-21 Sept. 29 at two-time defending Gateway champ #10 Youngstown State in the conference opener for both teams, and MSU then rolled past #22 Illinois State 58-41 at Plaster Field Oct. 6 before the road league losses at WIU and SIU.
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. At 5-4 after nine games, the Bears have more than doubled their win total from last year’s 2-9 team and need one more win for their first MSU winning season since the 2004 campaign.
UNI will become the seventh team in 10 games the Bears will have faced this season to be nationally-ranked at the time of the game. The pre-season Gateway favorite, UNI has been in the top five in the polls all season before taking over the top spot three weeks ago. Central Arkansas and Indiana State were the only other FCS opponents not ranked when the Bears played them.
UNI won a 30-24 showdown over SIU three weeks ago at home. The Panthers then blistered WIU 42-3 on the road in Macomb, and thrilled at sellout crowd in the UNI-Dome last Saturday by staying unbeaten with a 14-13 win over Youngstown State. The Panthers were down 13-0 at the start of the fourth quarter but WR Johnny Gray scored on a 29-yard pass reception three minutes into the quarter and then picked up the winning TD on an 18-yard reverse with five minutes left in the game.
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 Coaches: Terry Allen (UNI, ’76) is 7-13 with the Bears in his second year at Missouri State; 102-72 overall in his 15th year as a college head coach. He’s 0-1 vs. UNI. Allen was a player, assistant coach and head coach in the UNI program for from 1975 through the 1996 season and directed the Panthers to seven straight Gateway league titles from 1990 through the 1996 season with seven straight NCAA FCS playoff appearances. (Allen detailed bio and Missouri State and Gateway win lists attached).
Mark Farley (UNI, ’86) is 59-24 in his seventh year at UNI and overall as a college head coach. He is 5-1 vs. Missouri State. Farley played at UNI when Allen was on the Panthers’ staff and Farley was an assistant at UNI under Allen from 1989 to 1996 and was an assistant at Kansas to Allen from 1997 to 2000 before returning to UNI as head coach in 2001.
Series record: UNI leads 22-5 in a series in which the two clubs have met annually since 1980. The Panthers are 12-2 vs. the Bears in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls and 10-3 over Missouri State in Springfield. The Bears have beaten UNI once in the last eight years and twice in the last 17 seasons. The most recent UNI trip to Springfield saw the Panthers come in nationally-ranked and drop a 24-21 decision to the Bears. UNI would go on to share the 2005 Gateway title and advance to the championship game of the 2005 NCAA playoffs. (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 425-424-40 (.5006) for 889 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, to tie for sixth place. 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 the 2007 season opener vs. 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 2006. Geisz has moved from receiver to the 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’ 5-4 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 Missouri State has scored between 10 and 21 points in its four losses and between 42 and 63 points in its five wins. The Bears haven’t had any game in which they’ve finished with a point total between 21 and 42.
l Missouri State is unbeaten in four starts at home this season and the Bears have won their last five games at Plaster Field, dating back to last season. The Bears’ four home wins this season include a 62-17 win over Missouri-Rolla, a 58-41 win over Illinois State, a 42-38 win over Central Arkansas and a 63-7 win over Indiana State for an average of 56.3 points a game.
l The Missouri State-UNI staff connections go well beyond the long coaching association between head coaches Terry Allen of the Bears and Mark Farley of the Panthers. MSU assistants D.J. Vokolek and Rob Bolks came to the Bears with Allen in 2006 from Farley’s UNI staff, while UNI assistants Rick Nelson and Chris Klieman are both former assistants at Missouri State.
l The Bears’ 63-7 win over Indiana State represented MSU’s highest point total in a game since a 63-14 win over Drake in 2001, and the Bears’ biggest margin of victory in a game since a 61-0 win over Prairie View A&M in 1991.
l The Bears’ scoring margin in the game against Indiana State closed Missouri State to within six points of their opponents’ scoring total for the season at 327-333. The opponent scoring total of 333 points is the best single season figure on record against a Missouri State team, having broken the old mark of 324 from 2004 a week earlier in the Southern Illinois game. The Bears’ point total for 2007 that’s now at 327 jumped from 21st place to seventh place in Missouri State team season scoring. Missouri State scored 194 points last season in 11 games.
l The total points scored by the two teams in the Bears’ nine games this year are 79, 95, 71, 80, 70, 99, 41, 55 and 70. The Bears and their foes are averaging 10.9 scoring plays a game between them through nine games, compared to 7.6 scoring plays a game for MSU and its combined foes in 2006.
l TB Gerald Davis carried 14 times for 82 yards and five touchdowns last Saturday vs. Indiana State. The five TDs broke a 10-way tie for the school record for rushing touchdowns in a game. Davis had previously shared the record with nine other people with the four TDs he scored in the 2007 season opener vs. Missouri-Rolla, and it was his third multiple-TD game of the season as he also scored three times vs. Illinois State Oct. 6. With his five scores vs. Indiana State, Davis pushed his season total for rushing TDs to 16 with two games left. The only two MSU season in which a player has run for more than 16 touchdowns were DeAndre Smith with 18 in 1990 and Mark Daniels with 17 in 1979. Only seven players had previously rushed for as many as the 11 TDs in a year that Davis had going into the Indiana State game. In addition to Davis’s scoring, QB Cody Kirby has scored seven TDs. Last year’s Missouri State individual leader for the 11-game season was Jeremy Nicholson with four touchdowns. Against UMR, G. Davis 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. He followed with 121 yards vs. Central Arkansas and added a new career high of 123 vs. Illinois State.
l With freshman TB Jonathan Davis getting 113 yards on 19 carries vs. UMR along with the output by G. Davis, it was the first time two Bears had gained 100 or more yards on the ground in a contest in four seasons.
l Senior P/K Nathan Stokes continues to excel a both his specialties. He tied a school single game record Saturday vs. Indiana State by converting all nine of his PAT attempts and pushing his season PAT effort to 42-of-44. He also punted twice for a 58-yard average, including a 70-yard boot on his first kick of the game. That punt tied a kick by Mike Atzen as the fifth longest in school history, just a week after Stokes had hammered a 75-yard Oct. 20 at SIU. The 75-yarder was within four yards of Pat Hogan’s 1965 school record punt of 79 yards, also against SIU. Stokes won the Gateway Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second time this season last week. His 42 PATs are within seven of Wayne Boyer’s 1996 single season mark of 49. The 52-yard field goal Stokes kicked at Western Illinois was five yards longer than the longest FG he’s previously attempted. When he missed a 47-yarder later in the game at WIU, it was the first miss for Stokes in seven tries in 2007. Stokes was GFC Special Teams Player of the Week and MSU Coors Player of the Week for his performance at UTM. He had a record-tying 15 points on three field goals and six extra points against the Skyhawks. Stokes was perfect in his six 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. UT 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. His season punting average is up to 41.2 yards a punt.
l QB Cody Kirby was an efficient 10-of-12 passing for 183 yards in the Indiana State game. That pushed his season passing yardage total to 1,401, making him the most prolific freshman passer in Bears’ grid history. He went by the first-year totals of Greg Arterburn (1,309 in 1982) and Jeremy Hoog (1,391 in 1994) and also matched Hoog’s 1994 freshman record of nine aerial touchdowns. Against Illinois State, Kirby passed for four TDs and 277 yards vs. ISU for his best game in both categories this season. He earned his third nod as MSU Coors Player of the Week and his second pick as Gateway Offensive Player of the Week. Kirby was GFC 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. Kirby’s hot day against Indiana State pushed his completion percentage to a season-high .592 and his passing efficiency rating to 125.56.
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. Nicholson had one catch for 22 yards vs. Indiana State but it set up the Bears’ sixth touchdown of the game and moved his career receiving yardage total to 1,009 to make him the 14th player in Missouri State grid history with 1,000 yards receiving.
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. McElvane has missed the last four games with an injury but is expected to have a chance to play Saturday against UNI.
l The other player in the Bears’ quality receiving corps putting up big numbers is sophomore TE Clay Harbor. After catching just six passes last season as a redshirt freshman, Harbor is the Bears’ runaway leader in receiving with 36 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns.
l Missouri State’s offensive numbers this season compare favorably with the numbers put up by previous MSU teams, but they don’t lead the potent Gateway in a single category. In NCAA FCS rankings, the Bears this week are 22nd in rushing 19th in total offense, 13th in scoring offense and 29th in passing efficiency. The Bears will put those offensive numbers up against a UNI team 4th in FCS rushing defense, 4th in scoring defense and 18th in total defense. UNI is also 8th in passing efficiency and 10th in turnover margin in the nation.
l Individually, Gerald Davis leads the Gateway and is ranked 9th in FCS scoring with his 10.67 points per game.
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 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 5-4, the Bears have more than doubled their win total 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 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. Junior OT Kevaughn Brown was Gateway OLineman of the Week for his blocking in the game against Illinois State.
l The Bears gave up 508 yards rushing to Western Illinois Oct. 13, with 314 of those to WIU tailback Herb Donaldson. Those are the highest one-game team and individual rushing totals on record for a game against Missouri State.
l The Bears climbed to 14-8 in their series against Indiana State with last week’s win. The home win over Illinois State Oct. 6 ended a string of five straight losses to the Redbirds. The last time MSU had beaten ISU was in Springfield in 2001. Missouri State closed to within a game of ISU all-time at 13-14-1 in the series.
l Gateway teams posted three straight 5-2 weeks before opening league play. GFC schools are now 20-11 vs. outside foes this season.
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 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.