In a pandemic-shortened fall schedule, the Missouri State football team has gone 0-2, dropping games to Oklahoma University and University of Central Arkansas.
The Bears have a chance to avenge the 27-20 Central Arkansas loss Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. when No. 11 UCA comes to Springfield for the first and final home game of 2020.
“It’ll be fun to play at home,” head coach Bobby Petrino said in the team’s weekly media availability. “(It’s the) first time we get to coach a game in our stadium.”
There is a sense of getting one back on Central Arkansas among the Bears. Both Petrino and players have said they feel like they should have won the first matchup, in which at one point MSU led 20-7.
While the Bears have been idle since the first UCA game on Sept. 26, UCA has dropped games to FCS power North Dakota State and FBS school Arkansas State.
The extra time has allowed Petrino and his staff to break down what Central Arkansas likes to do.
“(In the four games UCA has played) they give you a pretty good idea of stuff they really believe in,” Petrino said. “They always have a little something different for each game — something that’s a little bit new. We know going into the game there’s going to be something that we haven’t prepared for that they haven’t shown in any of their games.”
For the Bears, there was a lot to improve offensively from their first two games. The offense was seven of 21 on third downs and amassed 143 yards in penalties in the UCA game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Johnson showed promise throwing the ball but at times his attempts to extend plays ended in turnovers.
“We need to execute all 11 guys together,” Petrino said. “One of the issues we had was negative plays. On those plays you’d have 10 guys doing their job and one guy making a mistake. That leads to a negative play.”
Defensively, the first UCA game was a lockdown performance. Central Arkansas only converted 3 of 15 third downs in the game. The Bears held UCA to 98 total rushing yards and 78 passing yards. Two of the touchdowns UCA scored came from a MSU fumble near the goal line and a punt return for a touchdown.
While the defense said it is happy with its performance, the players understand this game will not be the same.
“We don’t really think, ‘Oh, we did this last time so we’re going to do the exact same thing,’” senior defensive lineman Eric Johnson said. “We want to improve upon what we did.”
Going into the game, Johnson said there is a lot to be confident about going into the fall finale and the eventual spring season.
“It’s really exciting to see,” Johnson said of the team’s mindset. “I know I’ve been here for awhile, and Just seeing how the stuff we’re being taught is coming into effect and showing results, it’s really exciting — kind of happy to feel that.”
The Bears will host UCA at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17 at Plaster Stadium. 6,000 tickets are available and the game will be broadcasted locally on KOZL.