Sep 17, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (9) pushes off of a Missouri State Bears defender in the second quarter as he runs after a catch for a touchdown at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Arkansas overcomes 17-point hole to defeat Missouri St.

KJ Jefferson threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 10 Arkansas avoid a major upset and rally to beat Missouri State 38-27 on Saturday night in Fayetteville, Ark.

The Razorbacks (3-0) erased a 17-point first-half deficit in order to avoid becoming the first top-10 team to lose to a Football Championship Subdivision team since Appalachian State beat Michigan in September 2007.

The game marked the return of former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, who coached a game in Fayetteville for the first time since 2011 when his four-year stint as the Razorbacks coach ended.

Petrino’s Bears (2-1), who entered the game ranked fifth in the latest FCS poll, jumped out to a 17-0 lead with 10:36 left in the second quarter after quarterback Jason Shelley’s 24-yard touchdown run.

Shelley led Missouri State by completing 24 of 43 passes for 357 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

But the Bears’ offensive line had a hard time keeping Shelley upright as Arkansas finished with eight sacks, 2.5 of which were by Drew Sanders. Jordan Domineck and Zach Williams each had two sacks as well.

After Arkansas tied the game at 17, the Bears gambled on fourth-and-1 from the Arkansas 47-yard line and converted when Shelley executed a perfect play action fake and found a wide open Ty Scott downfield to retake the lead at 24-17.

Raheim Sanders took a shovel pass from Jefferson and broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown to cut Missouri State’s lead to 27-24 with 11:38 left in the fourth. Sanders ran for 167 yards on 22 carries while Jefferson completed 19 of 31 passes.

Landon Jackson and Drew Sanders recorded back-to-back sacks for Arkansas on the ensuing Missouri State possession to force a punt.

Bryce Stephens returned that punt 82 yards for a touchdown to give the Razorbacks their first lead of the game with 9:16 remaining. The Razorbacks forced another punt on Missouri State’s next possession and then completed a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Jefferson to put the game out of reach.

Matt Landers led all Arkansas receivers with seven catches for 123 yards as the Razorbacks amassed 597 total yards of offense.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) rushes in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 44-30. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Arkansas faces Missouri State and Bobby Petrino

Arkansas moved into The Associated Press’ top 10 following its win over South Carolina last week. It’s the second consecutive season the Razorbacks have reached the top 10 — marking the first time that’s happened in a decade.

Arkansas (2-0) will look to build on its momentum Saturday night and establish deeper roots in the top 10 when it hosts Missouri State (2-0) in Fayetteville, Ark.

Last season, the Razorbacks spent just one week in the top 10, when they immediately lost three in a row.

While it’s still early in the season, Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman said his team is proud of its ranking and hopes it will help to continue to attract top-level talent to the program.

“I tweeted out that we were No. 10, and then I got some responses, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter,’” Pittman said Monday. “I ain’t tweeting it to (the media) or a 50-year-old man. I’m trying to use it for recruiting.”

This will be the eighth meeting between Arkansas and Missouri State and the first since 2011. The Razorbacks have won all seven matchups.

Missouri State is coached by veteran Bobby Petrino, who coached Arkansas from 2008 to 2011, when his teams were 34-17 before some messy personal issues — hiring his mistress and deceiving the university of various misdeeds — led to his firing.

“The last time Arkansas was relevant was when Coach Petrino was here,” Pittman said.

Petrino’s last team finished at No. 5, the only Razorbacks squad to end a season in the top 10 in 40 years.

“We’re very grateful for his time here and what he did for the program,” Pittman said. “We’ve used that in recruiting. Without him and his staff, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

Last year, Missouri State, which went 8-4 in Petrino’s second season, nearly pulled off a shocker against an eventual top 10 program in Oklahoma State, losing 23-16 in Stillwater.

“I’m proud of our team,” Petrino said Monday. “I’m proud of our assistant coaches and the players that we have. When you look at the last two games, they’re really difficult games for us. We’re playing good teams that are well-coached and they have good players and we had to go to battle to win the game. And we got better.”

Petrino said there probably would be some emotions Saturday when he first sets foot inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. But he quickly redirected the focus to his players and praised Pittman for rebuilding Arkansas to its lofty status.

“Sam’s done a great job,” Petrino said. “When you watch them play, first and foremost, you see that they have beliefs in what they’re doing. The coaches really believe in it, and the players go out and execute it. What he’s done with that program, he’s done a great job.”

Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley is a 69 percent passer (37 for 54) for 563 yards and six touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception. The Bears are ranked No. 6 in the latest FCS rankings. They opened with a 27-14 win over Central Arkansas and last week edged UT Martin in a 35-30 thriller.

The Bears will have to contend with Arkansas’ Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, who leads the SEC with 273 rushing yards (136.5 per game, sixth nationally).

Arkansas has not needed to fully incorporate quarterback KJ Jefferson in its offense. Jefferson has completed a remarkable 76.6 percent of his passes (36 of 47) for 385 yards and four touchdown passes without throwing an interception and has rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Missouri State Bears safety Kyriq McDonald (6) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Brennan Presley (80) during the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma St. holds off FCS Missouri St., 23-16

Shane Illingworth threw for 315 yards and a touchdown, while Oklahoma State’s defense came up with two clutch stops in the last two minutes to preserve a 23-16 season-opening win over Missouri State on Saturday night in Stillwater, Okla.

The Bears, an FCS opponent that was a 32 1/2-point underdog, closed within seven points on Jason Shelley’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Scott with 3:06 left. They recovered the ensuing kickoff at the 16 but gave up the ball on downs with 1:59 remaining.

Missouri State got the ball back with 1:34 on the clock after a 3-and-out and drove from its 30 to the Cowboys’ 26. However, consecutive sacks turned the ball over to Oklahoma State with nine seconds left.

Shelley completed 23 of 44 passes for 233 yards under heavy pressure. He absorbed five sacks.

The pregame storyline concerned the absence of Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback, Spencer Sanders, who was ruled out of the game due to COVID-19 protocols.

It didn’t appear to matter for much of the first half as Illingworth piloted the Cowboys to 20 unanswered points. He initiated scoring with a 5-yard pass to Tay Martin just over five minutes into the game.

Oklahoma State upped the margin to 20 with a pair of touchdowns in a 41-second span early in the second quarter. Jaylen Warren powered over from the 1 with 11:38 left for a 13-0 advantage. Following Devin Harper’s fumble recovery at the Missouri State 25, LD Brown scored two plays later on an 11-yard run.

But just when it appeared the rout was on, it wasn’t. The Bears didn’t allow another score until early in the fourth quarter and controlled play for most of the last 2 1/2 quarters.

Their first three scores were 30-, 48- and 33-yard field goals by Jose Pizano. Missouri State appeared to have pulled within 20-13 late in the third quarter, but a touchdown was nullified for holding.

Oklahoma State’s only points of the second half came on a 35-yard field goal by Alex Hale with 13:05 left in the game.

–Field Level Media

Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) scrambles during a game against Texas Tech last season.

Oklahoma State welcomes Missouri State for opening heat check

It won’t take long for Oklahoma State to find out if the 2021 Cowboys can stand the heat.

Temperatures are forecast to touch triple digits factoring heat index values when the season begins Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., against Missouri State, which opens the season ranked No. 24 in the FCS poll.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said there’s more than the mercury reading to test the Cowboys. For starters, there’s a Missouri State quarterback — former Utah State and Utah quarterback Jason Shelley — whom Gundy likens to Lamar Jackson.

“They have an advantage in that they just played [in the spring]. We’re not taking them lightly at all,” said Gundy, who opens his 17th season as OSU coach this weekend. “Our guys understand and have practiced well, we need to get going. I would guess their depth isn’t quite what ours is, but when you have an experienced coach and you have a QB who has a lot of reps and you have a couple guys who can make a play on the edge, they are a threat. We’re aware of all that.”

The ground game remains essential for Oklahoma State, which plans to line up a starting offensive line comprised of players with at least three years of experience each. The Cowboys also have a talented but young wide receiver corps around quarterback Spencer Sanders.

Sanders passed for 305 yards with four touchdowns as MVP of the Cheez-It Bowl. That capped a sophomore season that was threatened in the spring by COVID. Sanders averaged 8.13 yards per pass attempt (second in the Big 12), but is often criticized for taking too many risks — but not always by Gundy.

“He makes plays out here,” Gundy said. “The defense makes plays against him, too, which is good. So I just feel like he’s in a good spot. Is he gonna make mistakes? Sure he is. Sometimes, will he fire one to the wrong team? Sure he will, just like Mason (Rudolph) did.”

Gundy, who is 12-0 against FCS opponents, said the Bobby Petrino-coached Bears are likely the most talented FCS opponent Oklahoma State has played. Part of that equation is a slew of “super seniors” who took advantage of an extra year of athletic eligibility from the NCAA.

“There’s no substitute for experience. Period,” Gundy said. “I don’t know about other sports, but in football, guys who have had a lot of reps and been in games and played on the road, there’s just not a substitute for that. That’s why it’s a big advantage.”

Petrino sees Shelley as an advantage.

“He had a great camp,” Petrino said. “His consistency, his quick release and his ability to understand just a little more and his experience showed up throughout practices. He also showed the ability to adjust to the defense and get the ball out of his hand.”

Petrino was named Missouri Valley Coach of the Year in his first season on the sidelines for the Bears. He has 17 starters back from a team that went 5-1 for a share of the conference title (5-5 overall) and reached the playoffs for the first time in 30 years.

Oklahoma State is 8-0 in the all-time series with Missouri State, including a 58-17 victory in 2018.

Petrino is 12-3 all-time in season openers.

–Field Level Media

South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski and Karst Hunter celebrate after their teammate scored a touchdown during the Dakota Marker rivalry game on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Fargodome in Fargo.

Dakota Marker 004

South Dakota State gains top seed in FCS playoffs

South Dakota State is the top seed in the field of 16 teams competing for the 2020 NCAA Division I Football Championship, announced Sunday.

The season was pushed to spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jackrabbits finished 5-1 to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference and will be making their 10th consecutive appearance in the playoffs.

The field consists of 10 automatic qualifiers and six at-large teams. Matchups are based largely on geographical proximity between campuses.

South Dakota State will host Holy Cross (3-0) on Saturday in Brookings, S.D.

The tournament will feature five teams from the MVC, including Missouri State, which will be making its first playoff appearance in 31 years. The Bears are led by Bobby Petrino, previously the head coach at Arkansas, Louisville, Western Kentucky and the Atlanta Falcons.

Missouri State hired Petrino in January 2020 to turn around a program that finished 1-10 in 2019.

FCS teams and first-round pairings:

Holy Cross (3-0) at No. 1 South Dakota St. (5-1)
April 24, Brookings, S.D.

Monmouth (3-0) at No. 2 Sam Houston (6-0)
April 24, Huntsville, Texas

VMI (6-1) at No. 3 James Madison (5-0)
April 24, Harrisonburg, Va.

Davidson (4-2) at No. 4 Jacksonville State (9-2)
April 24, Jacksonville, Ala.

Southern Illinois (5-3) at Weber State (5-0)
April 24, Ogden, Utah

Sacred Heart (3-1) at Delaware (5-0)
April 24, Newark, Del.

Missouri St. (5-4) at North Dakota (4-1)
April 24, Grand Forks, N.D.

Eastern Washington (5-1) at North Dakota St. (6-2)
April 24, Fargo, N.D.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) warms up before the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Rattler takes helm as Oklahoma meets Missouri State

Spencer Rattler embraces the expectations.

The redshirt freshman quarterback will make his first career start Saturday when No. 5 Oklahoma plays host to Missouri State.

There are few quarterbacks as hyped as Rattler has been entering a first start. He was a five-star recruit and the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the 2019 class, set Arizona state high school records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns, was featured on Netflix’s QB1 following his senior season, and follows an unprecedented string of quarterback success with the Sooners.

Oklahoma’s quarterback has finished in the top four of the Heisman Trophy voting in each of the last five seasons, with two winners.

Rattler, for all those reasons, is listed in the top four in many Heisman Trophy odds entering the season.

“That definitely prepared me for this,” Rattler said of the hype that has followed him. “To me, pressure is a privilege. I look at it to embrace it. I’m not going to run away from any expectations or this and that. I just focus on what I have to do with my team.”

The Sooners (12-2 last season) have been in the College Football Playoff each of the last three seasons and in four of the last five.

Whether or not they can ultimately reach the playoff again, though, doesn’t figure to be decided Saturday.

The Bears are an FCS program coming off a 1-10 season, installing both a new offense and defense under new coaches with limited practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also will play just three games this fall, with the hopes of playing their conference schedule in the spring.

Regardless of its opponent, Oklahoma enters its opener with plenty of questions. The Sooners not only will replace their quarterback but their top receiver after CeeDee Lamb’s departure for the NFL, and top running back after Kennedy Brooks’ decision to opt out.

On the defensive side, the Sooners have plenty of new faces after taking a step forward last year in Alex Grinch’s first season as defensive coordinator.

Missouri State’s new coach makes things interesting.

After spending a year away from coaching after his second stint at Louisville ended with his firing, Bobby Petrino is back coaching college football.

“It’s always fun having matchups against guys that are as accomplished as a guy like Coach Petrino is,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “One we all look forward to.”

Petrino knows that building a program like Missouri State, which hasn’t been to the FCS playoffs since 1990, will take time.

So he’s just looking for positive signs of progress this weekend.

“We got some work to do,” Petrino said. “We got some building to do. And when we build a program, I think it’s important that you celebrate your small success and your private successes. Private victories always precede public victories.”

–Field Level Media