#26 Missouri State FCS Football 2021 Preview

Missouri State Bears
Overall Rank: #26
#6 Missouri Valley
 Missouri State Logo
Missouri State picked up some huge wins during the 2020-2021 season. After losing all three games in the fall season against Oklahoma and Central Arkansas twice, the Bears came out strong in the spring. Most notable was an impressive three game stretch where Missouri State beat ranked conference opponents South Dakota, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. Tack on a win over Youngstown State and Coach Bobby Petrino took his team to the playoffs during his first year with the program. The Bears got crushed by North Dakota in the first round, but they are set up nicely to make another push towards the playoffs in 2021.
2020-21 Record: 5-5, 5-1
2020-21 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Bobby Petrino (5-5 at Missouri State, 124-60 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Nick Petrino
Defensive Coordinator: Ryan Beard
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Celdon Manning, RB, 269 yards
Passing: Jaden Johnson, QB, 1,028 yards
Receiving: Damories Vick, WR, 596 yards
Tackles: Tylar Wiltz, LB, 80
Sacks: Kevin Ellis, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Montrae Braswell, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Tobias Little, WR Jordan Murray, OL Landon Bebee, LB Titus Wall, DB Kyriq McDonald, LB Tyler Lovelace, DL Eric Johnson, K Jose Pizano, P Grant Burkett
Key Losses: RB Jeremiah Wilson, QB Matt Struck, WR Lorenzo Thomas, CB Jeremy Webb
Jaden Johnson is back after leading Missouri State with 1,028 passing yards. He was not particularly efficient though and threw twice as many interceptions than touchdowns. However, he did do enough to win some big games as a redshirt freshman. Jake Van Dyne earned some quality playing time last year as well and Coach Petrino has also brought in Utah State transfer Jason Shelley to provide more options. Shelley saw the quite a bit of playing time at Utah where he threw for 1,162 yards. At Utah State last season he saw limited action. Damories Vick was Johnson’s favorite target last season and easily led the team with 45 receptions for 596 yards. Missouri State has brought in some quality Division I transfers to help fill some holes, but nowhere is that more obvious than at wide receiver where the influx of experience and talent should reap immediate benefits. Celdon Manning earned All-MVFC honorable mention accolades as a freshman and rushed for 269 yards and four touchdowns. The more experienced Tobias Little will team up with Manning to provide what should be a potent 1-2 punch at running back.
Until the North Dakota game in the playoffs, Missouri State’s defense was doing quite well and stepped up when they needed to do so. The Bears do have star power at every level of the defense. Kevin Ellis and Eric Johnson both earned All-MVFC Second-Team accolades last season. Ellis has led the team in sacks in each of the last two seasons. At linebacker Tylar Wiltz led the team with 80 tackles last year and is a great leader in the middle of the field. The secondary is led by Montrae Braswell, the only defensive player to earn first-team All-MVFC accolades after the 2020-2021 season. In his debut season with the Bears, the cornerback tallied 41 tackles, picked off three passes, broke up four more and forced two fumbles. Kyriq McDonald came to Missouri State after playing a little at Alabama and Cincinnati. He started to live up to those expectations and should be even better with a year in the system.
The Bottom Line:
Coach Petrino is bringing in talent. This group has a lot of depth and the Bears should be competing for a spot in the playoffs. It will not be easy though in the always tough Missouri Valley Football Conference. It does not start easy either with non-conference games against Oklahoma State and Central Arkansas. The good news is the first conference games are all winnable. And the Bears will likely need to win all four of those games with North Dakota State, North Dakota, Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa on the schedule to finish conference play.
Projected Postseason:  None
2020-21 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 111.5 (72nd in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 168.5 (72, 7)
Total Offense: 280.0 (82, 9)
Scoring Offense: 17.5 (79, 8)
Rushing Defense: 120.3 (25, 5)
Pass Defense: 235.3 (74, 10)
Total Defense: 355.6 (46, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.8 (54, 8)
Turnover Margin: -0.40 (67, 6)
Sacks: 2.70 (23, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 4.60 (94, 9)