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Bears Set to Honor Seniors, Conclude Season Saturday

Missouri State Bears (4-6, 2-5 MVFC) vs. No. 14 Youngstown State Penguins (7-3, 5-2 MVFC)
Date/Kickoff: Nov. 19  |  2:04 p.m. (CST)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Robert W. Plaster Stadium (17,500)
Radio: Missouri State Football Radio Network/KTXR 101.3 FM
Watch: ESPN3
Live Stats:
Game Notes:  Missouri State  |  Youngstown State  |  MVFC
Series/Last Meeting: YSU leads 13-5  |  YSU won 47-7 in Youngstown (Nov. 7, 2015)
Promotions/Tickets: Senior Day  |  Bear Up With Louie  |

  • The Missouri State Bears will put the finishing touches on the 2016 season Saturday (Nov. 19) afternoon, when they host the 14th-ranked Youngstown State Penguins at Robert W. Plaster Stadium
  • Youngstown State holds a 13-5 series edge over the Bears, including a 6-3 mark against the Bears in Springfield; the Penguins have won the last two meetings to reverse a four-game MSU win streak in the series from 2008-11
  • The Bears will honor their seven seniors and a pair of graduating fourth-year juniors, on the field prior to Saturday's  contest; this year's senior class includes a pair of All-MVFC performers, as well as five student-athletes who have garnered MVFC Academic Honor Roll or All-Academic Team recognition during their respective careers
  • Missouri State enters its final game of the season ranked 21st among all FCS programs in home attendance (11,354 per game) and will be aiming for its 22nd-consecutive top-50 national finish in average home attendance
  • Preseason All-America linebacker Dylan Cole leads all NCAA Division I FCS defenders in total tackles per game (12.5); Cole is coming off a game-high 13-tackle performance at Illinois State, giving the senior 21 double-digit tackle totals in his 45 career games, including 14 in a row in MVFC play
  • Cole is second among all active FCS defenders in career tackles (441), which is good for fourth on the Bears' career list, just 11 stops behind John Harvey in the No. 3 position on the chart
  • Brodie Lambert's 16 touchdown passes this fall rank as the fourth-best single-season total in MSU history, trailing only Jay Rodgers (24 in 1999), Kierra Harris (19 in 2014) and Trevor Wooden (17 in 2011); he also ranks 10th on the Bears' career charts for completions (233) and touchdowns (19)
  • All 16 of Lambert's TD passes have come during MVFC play, giving him the third-highest total among all Valley signal-callers during league action; he also ranks sixth in the conference for total offense (216.9 ypg.) in Valley action
  • Junior return specialist Deion Holliman ranks eighth in the nation in combined kick return yardage (775) and, with 2,471 career all-purpose yards to his credit, needs just 22 additional yards to move into the Bears career top 15  
  • Holliman is the only FCS returner with both a punt and kickoff return for a TD in each of the last two seasons; with his 57-yard punt return for a TD vs. SIU (Oct. 29) — the fourth touchdown return of his career — he moved into a tie with Ken Braden for second on the Bears' career touchdown return list, just one behind all-time leader Cornelius Perry

The Missouri State Bears (4-6, 2-5 MVFC) will close out their 105th season of varsity football Saturday (Nov. 19) when they host the No. 14 Youngstown State Penguins (7-3, 5-2 MVFC) in a 2:04 p.m. (CST) Missouri Valley Football Conference game at Robert W. Plaster Stadium. Saturday's game marks the final home contest in the careers of nine MSU seniors, who will be recognized on the field prior to kickoff.

One such senior — linebacker Dylan Cole — spearheads a Missouri State defense that ranks 45th nationally against the run (144.4 ypg.). Cole leads the nation in tackles per game (12.5), while the Bears have registered 17 total takeaways to rank fourth in the Valley. Fellow senior co-captain Riley Shantz is expected to make his 24th start on the Bears' offensive line Saturday. The Springfield native has helped that unit post the 27th best sacks allowed (1.3 per game) mark in the country this fall.

MSU enters the game in search of its first five-win season since 2013, as well as its first winning campaign at home in six years. MSU is coming off a pair of road setbacks to playoff hopefuls South Dakota State and Illinois State. The Bears will be facing another squad that figures to factor prominently in the FCS postseason discussion, as the Penguins still have a shot at a share of the MVFC title, as well as their first FCS Playoff berth since 2006. Youngstown State posted a 21-14 win over Southern Illinois last weekend to remain unbeaten at home this fall. YSU boasts both the top total defense (296.7 ypg.) and scoring defense (16.2 ppg.) in the conference.

Missouri State will close its 2016 season Saturday, marking the final contests in the careers of nine MSU seniors. This year's class features a pair of All-MVFC performers in Dylan Cole and Riley Shantz, as well as five student-athletes who have garnered MVFC academic honors during their careers. Five seniors will earn their fourth letters with the Bears this fall, including Cole, Shantz, Phoenix Johnson, Zac Hoover and LeMarcus Stewart. Two-year lettermen Brodie Lambert and Terrence Neuhauser will make their final appearances with the Bears, as will fourth-year juniors Gus Carter and Shelby Harris, who are slated to complete their undergraduate degrees this academic year.

Two of those MSU seniors will enter the final contests looking to make their moves up MSU single-season and career charts. Senior linebacker Dylan Cole, who has started all 45 games of his MSU career, logged his 14th consecutive double-digit tackle total in MVFC play last Saturday at Illinois State and needs 11 more stops to catch John Harvey (452) in the No. 3 position on the Bears' career tackles list. Cole also enters the week 4.5 tackles for loss short of Steve Watson (45.0) in the No. 2 spot on that MSU career list. Cole leads the nation in tackles per game (12.5) and ranks second among all active NCAA Division I FCS defenders — and tops in the MVFC — in career tackles (441).

Additionally, Brodie Lambert's 19 TD passes is currently the No. 10 career total in program history, just one shy of the No. 9 mark (Kent Stringer) and two short of Derek Jensen's 21, which rank eighth. Lambert also sits in 10th on the single-season completions list (233), 13 behind Frank Miller in the ninth spot.

A pair of juniors are also making their moves on the MSU career charts. Malik Earl enters Saturday's game 16th on the Bears' all-time list for receiving yards (1,158), just 86 yards shy of Dorian Buford (1,244) in the No. 15 spot. Return specialist Deion Holliman ranks eighth nationally in combined kick return yardage (775) this fall and enters the final game of the year with 1,777 career kickoff return yards, which is good for second all-time at MSU. His 2,471 all-purpose yards also rate 15th on the Bears' career chart, just 22 yards behind Jason Cannon in the No. 14 position.

Senior quarterback Brodie Lambert continued his MVFC surge with a 224-yard passing day at South Dakota State (Nov. 5). Lambert hooked up with Zac Hoover on a 91-yard touchdown pass that represented the third-longest in MSU history, as well as scoring strikes to both Malik Earl and Erik Furmanek. That effort marked the fourth 200-yard passing game this season for Lambert, as well as the fourth time this season at least three different Bears have caught touchdown passes in the same game.

Against Southern Illinois (Oct. 29), Lambert posted career highs for total offense (390), passing yards (339) and rushing yards (51), while tossing four touchdown passes to lead MSU's 38-35 comeback victory. Lambert, who earned MVFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his MSU career as a result, threw for three TDs in the second half, helping the Bears rally from a 14-point deficit.

Lambert's 390 yards of offense represented the sixth-best single-game total in school history, and the most by a Missouri State player since Kierra Harris's 397 yards at Central Arkansas in 2014. The Arlington, Texas, native also registered one of his finest performances as a Bear Oct. 15 vs. No. 12 Western Illinois, finishing the day with a career-best five touchdown passes to match a Missouri State single-game record.

Junior tight end Erik Furmanek has been a force in the Bears' passing game as well over the last month, with 20 of his 24 receptions on the season coming in MSU's last six contests. At SDSU (Nov. 5), he hauled in three catches, including his third touchdown reception of the season, then caught three more passes last weekend at Illinois State.

The Belleville, Ill., native has been MSU's second-leading receiver during league play, averaging just under three grabs and 23.6 yards per outing. For the season, Furmanek's 24 receptions mark the most for a Bears tight end since the 2012 season, when Matt Thayer reeled in 38 passes for 294 yards.

Missouri State's propensity for big plays has been on display throughout the first 10 games this season, with the Bears logging 24 offensive plays of 25 yards or more so far this year. That figure has already surpassed the total of the 2015 Bears, who registered just 15 such 'chunk' gains for their entire 11-game season.

Additionally, MSU has 17 scoring drives of 75 yards or more, as well as 13 different scoring series extending at least nine plays, up from 2015 totals of just seven and 11, respectively.

The Bears enter their final contest of the season ranked 21st nationally in average home attendance. MSU's per-game average of 11,354 is the fifth-highest in the Valley, and currently ranks as the No. 7 overall home average in the history of the program.

The Bears are gunning for their 22nd consecutive top-50 finish nationally in average attendance. With a cumulative home attendance of 45,415 for the year, the Bears need to draw 12,910 to eclipse their top season attendance total in the renovated Robert W. Plaster Stadium (58,324 in 2014).
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