O-Zone Opinion


Bears miss out on golden opportunity

Missouri State dropped its season opener 23-17 last week, a winnable game against a Northwestern State team that had lost seven straight on the road.

But as they say on Twitter: “I ain’t even mad tho.”

I’m not mad because I thought the Bears played reasonably well, especially on defense.

MSU did its defense no favors, starting the game off with three straight 3-and-out series that put the defense’s back against the wall.

Northwestern State got to at least midfield or inside MSU territory on all six of its first-half possessions, yet only came away with 10 points. On the field for way longer than it should’ve been, the defense was resilient.

The Bears forced two turnovers that halted potential Demon scoring drives, including a fourth-quarter interception from Howard Scarborough in the endzone that I thought was going to flip the game in the Bears’ favor.

MSU’s defensive line didn’t seem to tire as the game wore on, a sign of its depth. The linebacking unit had flashes and will get better as the season goes along.

One injury would be costly for the position, but Scarborough and Sybhrian Berry are two quality cornerbacks. The safety tandem of Caleb Schaffitzel and Michael Crutcher are as good as it gets in the FCS.

When the handcuffs were taken off him and he gained some confidence, Kierra Harris was solid. His accuracy could improve a bit, but he made smart decisions with the ball and showed he’s a threat to run (why not more read option plays for Harris?).

The loss of Ryan Heaston will hurt in the long run, but if there’s a group that can survive the loss, it’s running back. Mikael Cooper-Falls filled in like a veteran should, and Vernon Scott and Phoenix Johnson showed they’re capable. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Johnson get up to 10 carries a game as the season continues.

The offensive line, which has been good almost every year under Terry Allen’s tenure, shouldn’t be a cause for concern this year.

So those are the positives. Far from an all-out disaster, and a game the Bears definitely could’ve won.

But, like I said earlier, I’m not mad; I’m more discouraged.

That’s a game you’ve got to win if you want to have a realistic shot at 7 or more wins (i.e. playoffs).

MSU has now lost nine straight non-conference games and eight of their last 10 home games. Did you know MSU went undefeated at home as recently as 2010?

I’m not sure what the offensive philosophy is this year, and judging by message board and Twitter reactions, neither do the diehard fans.

I get that you want to ease Harris in, that the running game and offensive line is your strength. But that first quarter was tough to watch. That was a game up for grabs, begging for the Bears’ to grab it with a couple of big plays.

I had flashbacks of the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs’ play-calling: run on first down, run on second down, super-safe pass on third down.

That wasn’t the same play-calling as the awesome, fun-to-watch, aggressive and high-scoring Bears’ offense from four or five years ago that I remember.

I thought the play-calling got better as the game continued (sweet second-half flea flicker) and Harris’ first read-option keeper was a beauty.

It’s a long season, not all hope is lost, but 1-0 would’ve been a great start.

I’m not sure what this team’s ceiling is now. I predicted last week they would win  seven games, but the chances for that took a major hit with the loss to Northwestern State.

The upcoming slate is not easy: road games at Iowa and Murray State, and home contests versus ranked teams in Central Arkansas and Illinois State. Perhaps I was too optimistic.

This is a favorite article of mine, and it shows the offseason makes homers out of all of us.

Around the O-Zone

1. MSU men’s basketball released its full schedule today, with non-conference games finally complete. Other than Tulsa, I don’t think there’s a non-conference home game I’d really want to go see. The Bears apparently had trouble filling some of their remaining open non-conference games, and it shows. MSU chose to schedule Division II Cameron University at home rather than a lowly Division I school, which would’ve hurt the Bears’ RPI come March.

That said, the non-conference away schedule is great. I’m eager to see how this young Bears team stacks up against Old Dominion, Texas A&M and defending champion Louisville.

2. If you don’t love MSU Bears guard Keith Pickens coming out of “retirement” to return for his final season, you don’t love America.

3. Oh hey, welcome back NFL! I can now stop following baseball until October. It’s been a strange offseason as a Chiefs fan. Usually, I’m the one trying to convince everyone else that the team is going to be better than people think. This year, I feel like I’m on the other end – I’m skeptical on K.C. and feel confused hearing all this talk about a potential, 9-7 or 10-6 wildcard season. I think they probably go 7-9 or 8-8.

4. I think Chiefs fans all know this season pretty much hinges on Alex Smith. The optimism behind him is basically, ‘Hey, he’s not Matt Cassel.” Very strong argument. The biggest noticeable improvements will be with his pocket presence, awareness, and most importantly, accuracy. Remember that 2011 game against the Packers, in which Kyle Orton filled in for Cassel? Orton and the Chiefs beat an undefeated Green Bay team that afternoon. I remember watching that game and thinking, ‘Whoa! He’s really accurate! He can throw the 10-yard sideline route and it actually hits the receiver in the chest. Are all quarterbacks like this?!’ If Smith can be an above-average QB who doesn’t screw up against teams the Chiefs should beat, I think K.C. can finish above .500.

5. I won’t pretend like I follow or know much about the Rams. I do know that arguably two of the three best teams in the NFL are within their division, so making the playoffs is a longshot on paper. I like Sam Bradford more than most, I don’t think the loss of Steve Jackson will be that huge, and the defense line is pretty loaded. Like the Chiefs, I think St. Louis finishes around 8-8.

6. Some noteworthy wins in high school over the last week: West Plains football broke a 21-game losing streak; Parkview softball ended a four-year losing streak and Rogersville volleyball beat Kickapoo for the first time since 2008.

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Topics : FootballMen's BasketballMissouri State

09/04/2013 2:12PM
Bears miss out on golden opportunity
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09/05/2013 5:23PM
Note to the Missouri State athletic department. You CAN schedule a really weak non-con. The Mo-Valley more than compensates for strength of schedule. I understand scheduling FBS teams. Gotta have that but what we've scheduled hasn't worked for a very long time.
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