FIRST AND TEN
- The Missouri State Bears return to the friendly confines of Robert W. Plaster Stadium Saturday (Sept. 16) afternoon to open the home portion of their schedule with a 2 p.m. contest against the Murray State Racers
- MSU will be opening its 76th season at Plaster Stadium with an all-time record of 210-165-12 (.558) at the facility; the Bears are also 66-35-4 (.648) in home openers and have gone 25-8-2 in such contests as a Division I program
- The Bears have drawn three of the top nine home crowds in program history and an overall average of 10,599 fans per home contest since completing the renovation to Plaster Stadium prior to the 2014 campaign; MSU has ranked among the top 30 FCS programs in average home attendance each of the last three seasons
- The Bears and Racers have met on 10 previous occasions, with Murray State claiming all but two contests in the series; MSU claimed a 28-22 victory last September in Murray to stop a three-game skid vs. the Racers
- Senior receiver Malik Earl saw his string of eight straight games with at least one reception come to an at North Dakota; the co-captain had recorded at least one catch in 29 of his previous 31 games prior to Saturday's contest
- Sophomore transfer Peyton Huslig has passed for 485 yards in the Bears' first two games of the season, which represents a program record for a quarterback over the first two starts of his MSU career; Huslig completed 24-of-35 passes for 353 yards—the seventh-best single-game total in school history—in his debut at Mizzou (Sept. 2)
- Huslig ranks fourth among all MVFC players in both passing yards per game (242.5) and total offense per outing (226.5.0), while Earl ranks fourth in receiving yards (81.5)
- Senior return specialist Deion Holliman inched closer to the top spot on MSU's career kickoff return yardage list last weekend, becoming just the third MVFC player to top the 2,000-yard mark; he enters Saturday's game 172 yards shy of Tony Gilbert's 28-year-old MSU mark of 2,219 career return yards
- Holliman climbed to No. 10 on MSU's all-time all-purpose yardage chart Saturday and needs 144 additional yards to become just the eighth Bear to accumulate 3,000 career all-purpose yards
- MSU is 6-of-8 on third-down tries in the first quarter this season, but just 4-of-18 (.222) over the last three periods; the Bears are allowing an average of 17.0 points per outing in the second half, but have been out-scored by a 59-14 margin in the second and third quarters this season
The Missouri State Bears
kick off their 76th season at Robert W. Plaster Stadium Saturday (Sept. 16) afternoon when they welcome the Murray State Racers
to town on Family Day
. The contest will mark the Racers' first trip to Springfield since 2012, as MSU begins its five-game home schedule with its only visiting non-conference foe on the 2017 slate.
The Racers, from the Ohio Valley Conference, are coming off a 41-13 home loss to No. 15 Central Arkansas last week after opening the season with a 67-7 throttling of Kentucky Wesleyan. Murray State leads the all-time series, 8-2, including three of the last five matchups, dating back to 2009. Third-year head coach Mitch Stewart has 53 lettermen back from a 4-7 team, but freshman D.J. Penick has stolen the show so far this season. The running back is averaging 5.1 yards per carry through two games with a team-high 28 carries.
The Bears and third-year head coach Dave Steckel
are seeking their first win of the season after playing back-to-back road games in early September. MSU is averaging 351.5 yards of total offense per game in the early going with sophomore signal caller Peyton Huslig
accounting for 485 passing yards and a 62.1 percent completion rate in his first two appearances for MSU. Senior Calan Crowder
leads the Bears' rushing attack, collecting 93.5 yards per game and 8.9 yards per carry on 21 carries the campaign.
BEARS STRONG IN NON-CON
Missouri State's match-up with Murray State represents its lone non-conference home game of the 2017 season. MSU has enjoyed a history of success in non-conference play at home since joining the Division I ranks in 1982, going 55-20 overall against non-league foes at Plaster Stadium.
The Bears bring a three-game home win streak versus non-conference opponents into the 2017 home slate, including shutout wins in two of those outings. MSU has out-scored its last three non-league opponents by a combined 116-13 margin, posting a 57-0 win over Southwestern College (Sept. 1, 2016), a 21-13 victory over Chadron State (Sept. 12, 2015) and a 38-0 white-washing of North Dakota (Sept. 13, 2015). The Bears have logged at least one non-conference home win in 26 of their last 30 seasons.
MILESTONE WIN IN MURRAY
The Bears stopped a three-game losing streak in their series with Murray State last season, building an 11-point first-half lead, then using a stingy second-half defensive effort to hold off the Racers for a 28-22 victory at Roy Stewart Stadium. The victory handed head coach Dave Steckel
his first road win as the Bears' sideline boss, and gave MSU its first 2-0 start to a season since 2007.
A stout defensive effort in the red zone helped stake the Bears to a 21-10 lead in the opening half. After the Racers turned up their own defensive pressure in the second half and used a KD Humphries TD toss to pull to within two points, the Bears turned the lights out on their first road win in nearly two years with a pair of takeaways, as well as a 16-yard Calan Crowder
scoring run that sealed the deal with just over six minutes to play.
MSU shut down the Racers' rushing attack throughout the night, holding Murray State to 72 yards on 30 carries – including only 29 yards on 12 carries in the second half – to offset a 356-yard passing night by Humphries. Senior All-America linebacker Dylan Cole
registered a game-high 14 tackles and forced two of the Racers' four turnovers, stripping Humphries in the red zone for a key second-half fumble, then intercepting a pass in the third period.
Senior Deion Holliman
inched closer to the top spot on the Bears' career kickoff return yardage list last weekend, becoming just the third MVFC player ever to top the 2,000-yard mark. With 2,047 career kick return yards, he enters Saturday's game 172 yards shy of Tony Gilbert's 28-year-old MSU mark of 2,219 yards. The Camden, Ark., product is just 271 yards away from matching The Valley's all-time record of 2,318 return yards, set by UNI's Carlos Anderson (2009-12).
Holliman earned preseason All-America recognition after ranking among the nation's top return threats over the last two years. Holliman is the lone FCS return man to bring back both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in each of the last two seasons.
Holliman owns the top two single-season totals for return yards in MSU history. In 2015, the Camden, Ark., native paced all of FCS football in combined kick return yardage. Holliman's 1,049 kickoff return yards eclipsed Todd Speight's (Western Illinois) MVFC record, set in 2009.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Missouri State can once again make a valid claim as having one of the toughest schedules in the Division I FCS ranks this fall. Based on STATS' preseason FCS Poll, the Bears are slated to meet seven of the top 25 teams in the nation, in addition to their season opener against Mizzou, a perennial bowl contender in the FBS ranks.
All eight of the Bears' MVFC foes entered the season either ranked in the top 25 or receiving votes from the STATS voters. Since the start of the 2014 season, MSU has squared off against a total of 19 ranked opponents. In fact, the Bears have played no fewer than three ranked opponents in any of the last 12 seasons. MSU has taken on a total of 39 top 25 clubs in the last eight seasons alone and brings a record of 22-89 against ranked FCS foes into the week.
PACKING THEM IN PLASTER
The newly-renovated Robert W. Plaster Stadium has hosted three of the top nine home crowds in Missouri State football history, as well as an overall average of 10,851 fans per home contest over the last two seasons. Last year, MSU registered its third consecutive season drawing at least 50,000 spectators at home and ranked among the nation's top 30 FCS programs in average home attendance for the third consecutive year after the facility opened to rave reviews in 2014. The Bears drew 58,324 fans through the turnstiles in their five home games that season, an average of 11,665 per contest — good for 18th nationally. The club's net total attendance in 2014 marked its best in five-game home schedule since 1996 and the top season figure overall since 2007.
A record-drawing crowd of 18,386 witnessed Missouri State's 38-0 victory over North Dakota (Sept. 13) in its 2014 home opener. The standing-room-only crowd translated to 105 percent of the stadium's new capacity and represented the top home crowd in Bears' history, surpassing the previous 17-year-old record of 16,672, established Aug. 28, 1997 vs. Pittsburg State. The opening-night attendance also equaled the 26th-largest crowd — home or away — to see a Missouri State football game.