The Missouri State football team bounced back in a big way, beating Indiana State on Saturday 37-7 after losing to Youngstown State the week prior.
Unlike last week's matchup, this one will test the Bears' limits as they take on No. 3 North Dakota State in the Fargodome.
Here’s what you can expect from both teams heading into the game.
Defense, defense and more defense
Both the Bison and the Bears carry bruising defenses, but NDSU’s is on a different level.
This is where the Bison rank in the FCS in some key defensive categories:
Opponent 3rd down conversion %: 21.5% (2nd)
Opponent 1st downs: 71 (2nd)
Passing yards allowed per game: 155.5 (5th)
Yards per game: 226.5 (1st)
Points per game: 7.17 (1st)
Total points allowed: 42 (1st)
Red zone defense: 42.9% (1st)
The Bison have only given up five touchdowns and have only allowed their opponents to reach the red zone seven times this season.
“The defensive front is exceptional, and they move them a lot,” head coach Bobby Petrino said in media availability on Monday. “The linebackers tackle, both safeties come to the run and they can play both man and zone coverage.”
NDSU’s cover-2 shell and ability to get pressure with just four defensive linemen gave MSU a lot of trouble in the spring season. Teams have played MSU much differently this season because of the emergence of the passing game, but Petrino doesn't think that NDSU will change its scheme for the Bears.
“They kinda do what they do,” Petrino said. “They don’t make a lot of changes. They don’t do a lot of things different.”
While the Bison tote a talented defensive squad, MSU has a playmaking defense on its side.
The Bears rank third in the FCS in turnovers created (16) and third in interceptions (9).
The teams have different defenses that are good in their own, unique ways. Expect a physical, defensive-heavy game with a lot of big stops and possibly some turnovers.
The Fargodome is one of the loudest, most ruckus-causing venues in all of FCS. While the Bears have seen record turnouts at Plaster Stadium, a lot of the players haven’t played in an environment like the Fargodome.
Senior safety and team captain Titus Wall didn’t get the chance to play against NDSU in the spring, but he’s ready for the challenge this time around.
“I’m ready to get on this field,” Wall said. “(NDSU) didn’t get to see me last year but they’re definitely going to see me this year,”
That type of “bring it to them” energy is an energy that an MSU football team hasn’t had in years.
Every game is a must-win and every week is a new week. There's no looking back and no looking ahead.
“We feel like we can compete with anybody,” junior tight end Ron Tiavaasue said. “We play like we have a chip on our shoulder and like everyone’s counting us out.”
The Bears are an underdog this week. Expect that underdog mentality to come out during the game. It could lead to some big plays and possibly an upset.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23 in Fargo, North Dakota. You can watch the game on ESPN+ or listen to the game via the Bears Radio Network.
Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_
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