No one saw this coming. A Missouri State Football team that went 1-10 in 2019 had little expectations for this shortened Spring 2021 football season. But there is no doubt anymore. This team can contend for a Missouri Valley Football Conference title. The supreme heavyweight division of them all.
The Missouri State Bears are Contenders in the MVFC
The Bears are currently, tied atop the conference at (4-1) with North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and North Dakota. The win on Saturday cemented the reality of the real authenticity of a quality team. After beating Southern Illinois on a last-second field goal by kicker Jose Pizano, the Bears have now knocked off three heavyweights in a row. The last time this happened was back in 1989 when they won the conference and was known as the Gateway Football Conference. This was the last time the Bears won the conference outright. In 1990, the Bears split the title with Northern Iowa. Either way, this is unchartered territory for a team being the consistent doormat for decades.
Bobby Petrino addressed the media after the game. “I think I’m getting old,” Petrino joked after the game. “It’s just a great win. The coaches did a great job at halftime talking about competing and playing hard. Playing Bear football the previous weeks and we came out and did that in the second half.”
Toughness And Resilience Through Adversity
Certainly, The game wasn’t pretty. After trailing 19-7 at halftime the Bears kept grinding behind running back Celdon Manning‘s three rushing touchdowns. Four in total, including a 75-yard reception to start the game. The Bears prevailed again 30-27 over yet another ranked team. This is no fluke anymore. This is a team gelling at the right time with solid leadership within the locker room.
And although Petrino is in the FCS, the competition is fierce. “First of all what a tough conference. Holy cow we played a tenth-ranked team back to back. What a great conference and it’s a lot of fun. Each team you go out and play that’s really well-coached. It’s an exciting time for us. I’m enjoying watching players smile and enjoying success. And understand you play together as a team.”
Petrino Deserves Credit And Is Enjoying the Moment
Watching the post-game presser, there is a real joy when you watch Petrino talking about the team and the players. He mentioned, again and again, seeing the players really embrace the moment. Not to mention, the toughness the team is building upon each week. If there were any naysayers before this game, it will be hard to find many “Debbie Downers” this week.
Going forward, the Bears have two games remaining against North Dakota on the road and a home game against Youngstown State. The April 17th game against Illinois State has been canceled due to the team’s decision to opt-out of the season.
But make no mistake, no matter what happens this team should be proud of not only being able to compete in this heavyweight division but battling during an ongoing pandemic. The challenge of playing a spring football season when the fall season was postponed was not easy. All the teams in the FCS for that matter brought their players in to play a season when few believed this could happen. Still, this pandemic is far from being over, as cancellations stacked up this past weekend. This season is one to remember and is not finished yet. It’s exciting for the fans to see a great football team show up every week. Springfield, Illinois is now on the map.