As the song goes “on the road again, up on the stage again, playing the star again, turn the page”. Now we get another spring playoff team, the Mo. State Bears. Coach Petrino, who sports a 119-56 record as a head coach in 14 seasons at the FBS level, took over in the fall of 2020 and revamped the team roster with 30 plus transfers. His squad played Central Arkansas to two close losses (TO’s and sacks did them in) and a blow out against FBS Oklahoma.
In the spring he won a share of the MVFC championship with a 5-1 record (including UNI & SIU). UND crushed them in the first round of the playoffs 44-10. The Herd beat them for their only loss in “regular” season 25-0. To say they are well coached, would be an understatement. He is the reigning MVFC coach of the year.
They have jettisoned their biggest weakness, a young, error prone dual-threat QB for a senior transfer, Jason Shelley, who started his career at Utah, moved to Utah State and was dismissed from that program for a violation of team rules. At 5’11” 195 lbs, he is more in the mode of a Tre Roberson (quick twitch) than a big bodied Taryn Christian. This is Code Green’s first real test by a dual-threat QB (Bryce Jefferson doesn’t count). Shelley has run for 41 yards per game and 4 TD’s. He has thrown for 1663 yards (277 YPG) and 13 TD’s. They have three quality WR’s.
As a team they are 21st in the Nation in scoring at 33.5 PPG, have gained 437.2 YPG in total offense (16th in FCS) and are 47th in rushing at 155.7 YPG. They kept Oklahoma State at bay, scoring late to make it a 23-16 final (the Cowboys are 6-0). The Pokes held them to 102 yards on the ground (2.8 YPC). They gained 147 on the ground versus Central Arkansas, but lost the total yardage fight 453 to 378. Plus two in the TO battle swung the game to the Bears. They have pitched two shut outs in the second halves to overcome a 23-14 deficit versus the USD Coyotes (a game they won 31-23) and a close 21-20 lead at the half against the IL State Redbirds on the road (won 41-20).
They coughed up the proverbial hairball versus Youngstown State. They fell behind 17-3 at half and entered the 4th QTR down 20-10. After tying the game at 20 with 4:38 to go, both teams went on a wanton scoring fetish. YSU scored twice in two minutes to lead 34-20 with 2:08 left in the game. The Bears scored with 1:08 left, to make it 34-27. YSU scores on a 75 yard QB run with 40 seconds left (41-27). With 40 seconds Mo. State goes 75 yards to score at the buzzer. That’s 34 points in 4 minutes!
If this makes you dizzy, it should. What it spells is inconsistency. Don’t get me wrong. Mo. State is a dangerous opponent, if you let them. In the MVFC every team can beat you on a given week. Just ask E Wash who barely got out of W IL alive (63-56 after being 28 points up at half) and Eastern Kentucky, who lost to Ind. State with less than a minute left, 23-21.
The Herd has best embraced the importance of the 1-0 weekly mentality. This isn’t a cliché. Back in 2012, early in this Bison march of greatness they came off of beating #3 ranked YSU 48-7. Trevor Gebhart recounted to Bison Report’s, Ross Uglem how the next week they just went thru the motions at practice. A feeling that they really “had arrived” enveloped the team. Who could worry about this week’s foe, the lowly, unranked Ind. State Sycamores? Brock Jensen throws two pick sixes and another INT into the end zone. Results, a 17-14 loss.
The Bears are a dangerous team, if you let them.
You know my mantra (taken from others), “that defense wins championships” is where I think the Bears are the weakest. They play average defense. Even though they are 36th in rushing D at 132 YPG, they fall to 61st in total D (377.3 YPG) and scoring D comes in at 45th (24.7 PPG).
Here’s the formula I think the Bison can ride to victory on Saturday.
I can’t get over the stat that the Bears have given up 70 sacks in the last 16 games (this is Petrino’s roster. The remade team from three fall games in 2020, seven last spring and six this fall). The fall and spring’s 10 games yielded 46 sacks (including 7 by Code Green in the spring 25-0 shutout). They haven’t fixed it, giving up 24 this fall in six games. This, to a large degree, has negated Shelley’s threat as a dual threat. He has gained 403 yards rushing, but the sacks have totaled 157 yards in losses, thus lowering his production to 246 yards. Sacks are drive stoppers. 90% of the time you don’t get a 1st down after one occurs.
The bigger problem on sacks is that it shows a serious flaw in the quality of the team’s offensive line. The Bison, historically, have given up one or less per game. If other teams are averaging four sacks per game, what can Code Green do? Last spring wasn’t a showing of stellar D by Code Green and we got seven sacks on the road win. We need more of the same this week. So our DL can rush with abandon, we need to put a spy on the QB, so if he breaks contain, we can limit the damage.
I think we can stop their big back run game. Oklahoma State held them to 102 yards of rushing and I think Code Green is in the same league as the Cowboys. YSU held them to 131. Bears really gained 172, but lost 41 yards to 4 sacks and a fumble. I know Code Green is superior to YSU’s D.
YSU ran on the Bears to the tune of 377 yards. I think the Rams are better than YSU’s OL. Mo. State seems to have problems corralling small, quick RB’s. Jaleel McLaughlin, YSU’s version of Houdini, is 5’9” 175 lbs of electric eel. He gained 156 yards on 19 carries (8.2 YPC). Last spring, Bussey got 98 yards in 10 carries and Kobe got another 56 in 14 carries. In all, the Rams paved the way for 272 yards (5.7 YPC).
Last spring we didn’t have a QB run game, this year we do. YSU’s QB solved the Bear’s D to the tune of 195 yards in 22 carries. The YSU QB isn’t a proficient passer, nor is he as big as Quincy is. I don’t think their D can contain our QB run game.
Really it boils down to our same old formula. Stop their run game and turn them into a one dimensional team. On offense, run it around the edge with our small quick backs and a heavy dose of Quincy.
Yes, we also will have a home field advantage.
Vegas has the Herd at about 14 points. If we get 5 or more sacks, I think we win by more than 3 scores. Go Bison! It’s a great week to go 1-0.