#7 Missouri State FCS Football 2022 Preview

Missouri State Bears
Overall Rank: #7
#4 Missouri Valley
 Missouri State Logo
Coach Bobby Petrino has now taken Missouri State to the FCS Playoffs for the second straight season. After a 30-year absence from the playoffs, just getting that far is a big accomplishment. However, the Bears failed to get out of the first round in each of those appearances, falling at home 32-31 against UT Martin last season. This time around the expectations are even higher and losing in the first round again could be a bit of a disappointment.
2021 Record: 8-4, 6-2
2021 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Bobby Petrino (13-9 at Missouri State, 132-65 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Nick Petrino
Defensive Coordinator: Ryan Beard
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kevon Latulas, WR, 625 yards
Passing: Jason Shelley, QB, 3,347 yards
Receiving: Ty Scott, WR, 1,110 yards
Tackles: Ferrin Manuleleua, LB, 70
Sacks: Kevin Ellis, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Montrae Braswell, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Naveon Mitchell, OL Landon Bebee, S Kyriq McDonald, CB Lemondre Joe, DE Jalen Williams, DE Devin Goree
Key Losses: RB Tobias Little, WR Xavier Lane, WR Jordan Murray, TE Isaac Smith, LB Tylar Wiltz, S Titus Wall, DL Eric Johnson, LB Tyler Lovelace
The main reason for the high expectations is the return of quarterback Jason Shelley. He transferred in from Utah State and had an amazing season, throwing for 3,347 yards and 22 touchdowns. The 5-11 senior also ran for 442 yards and ten more scores. Ty Scott will again be Shelley’s favorite receiving target. Scott caught 66 passes for 1,110 yards and eight touchdowns. Players like Naveon Mitchell and a few new transfers will have to step up and provide the Bears offense with a few more targets down field.
The offense, mostly the passing game, grabbed most of the headlines, but the defense was solid and always did enough to keep Missouri State in the game. There are some big holes to fill though. Linebacker Tyler Wiltz is gone after recording 106 tackles and three interceptions. Also gone is second leading tackler, safety Titus Wall. The front line is strong though with the return of Kevin Ellis. He earned First-Team All-MVFC accolades last behind 8.0 sacks and 59 tackles. Jalen Williams and Devin Goree will spend plenty of time getting after the quarterback too. The secondary will miss Wall, but there are stars here too. Montrae Braswell recorded four interceptions last season and Lemondre Joe added three from the other cornerback spot. Kyriq McDonald will be the new leader at safety after tallying 64 tackles and two interceptions in 2021. The biggest questions are at linebacker where the Bears will have to reload around Ferrin Manuleleua.
The Bottom Line:
While the goal for Missouri State fans will be making some noise in the playoffs, but getting to the playoffs is never easy in the tough MVFC. But before the Bears get to conference play, they have to navigate a very tough non-conference slate. It starts with a trip to Central Arkansas before a rematch with UT Martin. And then comes a trip to Arkansas. The Bears cannot likely go winless in those three games and still reach the playoffs.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2021 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 153.7 (49th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 282.8 (15, 2)
Total Offense: 436.5 (16, 2)
Scoring Offense: 34.2 (12, 2)
Rushing Defense: 126.2 (32, 5)
Pass Defense: 243.8 (89, 9)
Total Defense: 369.9 (59, 8)
Scoring Defense: 26.2 (57, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.33 (36, 5)
Sacks: 2.50 (30, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 3.92 (119, 10)