After dropping the season opener to No. 22 Oklahoma State, the Missouri State football team will face Central Arkansas for the third time in two seasons on Saturday, Sept. 11.

For the lead up to the third matchup, here are three things to look for in Saturday’s game.

Vertical Passing

Both teams are blessed with tall, talented receivers and quarterbacks that can get it to them consistently.

Missouri State is extremely deep at receiver. Seniors Xavier Lane and Damoriea Vick both came up with big receptions in the near-upset over OSU averaging 9.75 and 16 yards per catch, respectively. Junior Tyrone Scott hauled in the lone Bear touchdown of the game as well. 

Sophomore receiver Tyler Hudson and junior receiver Lujuan Winningham of UCA are big-play targets in their own right. 

“That’s the challenge,” head coach Bobby Petrino said in media availability on Monday. “They had good receivers a year ago and we defended them well. I’m sure they’ll be motivated to come in and try to show what they can do.”

Hudson hauled in seven catches for 118 yards and a score, and Winningham hauled in six catches for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a loss to Arkansas State.

Each team allowed 315, or more, yards passing in their season openers. Look for each team to have an explosive passing attack, especially with the losses at cornerback. 

Both teams saw big names leave since they last played each other. MSU lost Jeremy Webb to the transfer portal in the offseason and UCA lost Robert Rochell to the NFL draft. 

Tenacious Trenches

Both teams have tall tasks ahead of them when it comes to offensive and defensive line play.

MSU and UCA have multiple players who can create problems in the backfield and get to the quarterback in passing situations.

MSU’s seasoned defensive line headlined by seniors Kevin Ellis and Eric Johnson held OSU to just 1.9 yards per carry in the season opener. 

Sophomore Jalen Williams and senior Ikenna Ahumibe are staunch run defenders who hold their gaps soundly and create good penetration in the run game.

“We’ve got to shut their run down,” Petrino said. “Whenever you shut somebody’s run down, you force them to have to throw the ball and you get a better pass rush and you get some turnovers created.”

MSU is going to have to deal with some good pass rushers on UCA’s side. Last season, sophomore defensive end Logan Jessup and junior defensive end Jalen Bedell tallied 6.5 and 5.5 sacks, respectively. 

MSU’s offensive line allowed 46 sacks last season while UCA only allowed 20. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be important for both teams in the running and passing game. 

Clean Football

MSU was a team that struggled with turnovers last season. While the defense forced 16 turnovers, the offense allowed 19, making them -3 in turnover differential.

In two previous matchups, UCA’s defense tallied five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns, making them +8 in turnover differential.

“We’ve just got to focus on execution,” senior linebacker Tyler Lovelace said in media availability on Monday. “That’s what cost us in the fall against them (UCA) last year.”

Even though UCA was dominant in turnover differential against MSU, it did not fare well against other competition allowing 24 total turnovers last season.

MSU is already +2 in turnover differential this season while UCA is -1. Playing smart, safe, turnover-free football is going to be imperative to both team’s success. 

Kickoff for Bears versus Bears part three is set for Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at Plaster Stadium. 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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