Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
Following a 41-13 rout by the University of Central Arkansas, Racer football will look to bounce back when they meet Missouri State University on Saturday.
Central Arkansas, ranked 15th nationally, was able to stall the Racers’ high octane offense displayed in their season-opener, holding Murray State to just two field goals and a lone touchdown in Saturday’s loss. Head Coach Mitch Stewart acknowledged his team’s poor performance last Saturday and said his team will need to lean on improved blocking in order to redeem themselves against Missouri State.
“We didn’t do a whole lot of anything great the other night,” Stewart said. “We got our fannies whipped by a really good football team Saturday night, but for us to get past that, we’ve got to keep people standing up and we’ve got to get movement at the point of attack.”
But it will call for a collective team effort to defeat a Missouri State team highlighted by five players who were named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference Preseason Team.
Yet lucky enough for the Racers, the Missouri State Bears are none too familiar of a foe. Last season, the two teams met in a game that went down to the wire, inevitably ending in a 28-22 loss for the Racers. The Bears finished their 2016 campaign with a combined record of 4-7.
Missouri State has gotten off to a slow start to their season thus far, jumping out to an 0-2 record in nonconference play. In their first week, the Bears faced a stellar SEC foe, the University of Missouri, in a game where defense was practically nonexistent. The game ended in a final score of 72-43 in favor of the Tigers.
Last Saturday, the Bears faced 11th-ranked University of North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks held the Bears scoreless in the game, sealing a decisive 34-0 victory over Missouri State to hand the team their second loss of the year. In that game, Missouri State’s sophomore quarterback Peyton Huslig passed for 132 yards, completing 12-23 of his passes.
Because of the peculiar circumstances surrounding both of the Bears’ previous games, Stewart said it’s difficult to assess what they bring to the table.
“It makes it hard to evaluate them from a standpoint of watching one game against an SEC opponent and they look like gangbusters, and then you watch the other game and they don’t play so well,” Stewart said. “So I’m hoping that team shows up, not the one that showed up the first week.”
In the Racers’ game against Central Arkansas last weekend, the team’s defense gave up 486 total yards offensively. As the team prepares to take on Missouri State, senior linebacker Lamont Crittendon said his defense has evaluated their underwhelming defense performance and identified their shortcomings.
“We went back and looked at the film, and the hiccups that we had happened because of one person not fitting in the right place,” Crittendon said. “It was small things, nothing in the grand scheme of things.”
With the lopsided loss last week and the Racers looking to avenge a 2016 loss against the Bears, Crittendon said his team is primed to bounce back and extend their record to 2-1.
“We played Missouri State last year, so I’m really excited about the rematch,” Crittendon said. “I don’t think there’s anything special [to focus on] because we know what they do because we’ve played against them. We’re going to watch film on their games this season, and I think just having that bad taste in our mouths from last season is all the motivation we need to prepare for this week.”
The Racers’ third game of the season will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 in Springfield, Missouri.