With their matchup against Oklahoma University inching closer, the Missouri State football team held an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 21. 

The scrimmage was impressive, to say the least. Both the offense and defense looked like they had improved from years past, and there seemed to be a different level of energy inside Plaster Stadium. 

  1. Formation Variation

Under former head coach Dave Steckel, the MSU offense lacked formation variety, almost always running plays from the shotgun. Rarely, if ever, did Steckle-led MSU teams use under center formations. 

New head coach Bobby Petrino’s offense used both shotgun and under center formations, as well as a wide variety of personnel. Frequent switching between shotgun and under center sets allowed the Bears’ offense to move the ball well on their first two king drives.

“I think they enjoy it,” Petrino said. “I think they like the challenge and the different things they get to do and the different positions they get to align in.”

  1. Out-hit and out-hustle 

MSU’s defense has struggled in years past. But, from what was shown at the scrimmage, it seems like there is reason to be hopeful.

The first team defense and offense squared off on three separate drives during the scrimmage, and the defense only allowed two scores. The defense played fast, downhill and aggressive. The defensive line was getting to the quarterback consistently. The linebackers were playing physically and made several plays in the run game.

The secondary was the most improved unit on the field. In the 2019 season, the secondary gave up 217 passing yards per game. This year they look new and improved. They consistently deflected passes, made open-field tackles and brought life and energy to the whole defense. “Out-hit and out-hustle,” said senior safety Titus Wall when asked what the defense prides itself on. “It’s like letting a dog off the leash. You tell them to sic ‘em and we’ll go get ‘em.”

Young Guns

Playmakers make plays, no matter the age. That stands true for Missouri State. Coach Petrino has put younger players in important positions on both sides of the ball.

Redshirt freshman Jaden Johnson was the quarterback for the first-team offense for the entirety of the scrimmage, and he did not particularly look like a freshman. His pocket presence was that of a fifth-year-senior, and he made the right read the majority of the time. 

The defensive side of the ball had some young star players highlighted by redshirt freshman linebacker Lucas Eatman and true freshman linebacker Mikey Miles.

Eatman and Miles were making plays all over the field for the first-team defense. Eatman made several plays in the run game and even showed great blitzing ability from his inside linebacker spot.Miles was an extremely versatile player for defensive coordinator Ryan Beard. Miles lined up at safety, nickel corner, linebacker and even rushed the passer. Miles made several great open-field tackles and covered well.

“We expect a lot out of him,” said Petrino. “Since the day he got here, he’s had a different mindset — one that was gonna get on the field right away. He’s been up to every single challenge. He can really run and tackle.”

These young players could have a big impact on Saturdays.

  1. Returning Talent

Most of the hype surrounding the Missouri State football team is all about the new. New head coach. New players. But, the players who have been here are just as relevant as the newcomers. Junior wide receiver Damoriea Vick caught about every ball Jaden Johnson threw his way. 

Senior safety Titus Wall made plays in the run game and intercepted a pass. Senior cornerback Zack Sanders is in a nickel cornerback role rather than his previous boundary cornerback role under Steckel. Despite his new role, he continued to make plays defensively and be effective in the return game.

All in all, the team played well on both sides of the ball. The offense moved the ball with ease at times. On the other hand, the defense stood tall and made plays when they needed it. The promising upside of the young players paired with the strong veteran presence made for a captivating scrimmage.

“It was very competitive on both sides of the ball,” Petrino said. “I did like the energy and the hustle and fire that everyone played with.”

The energy in Plaster Stadium could be energy that turns the program around.