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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 01 2013

Increased home games, experience should aid Missouri State

FARGO – The opening two games for Missouri State last season resembled more of an FCS execution line than anything else. The Bears opened at Kansas State and Louisville.

Two years ago, they played at Arkansas and Oregon.

On that note, progress has already been made this year with MSU having just one FBS game on its schedule – a Sept. 7 game at Iowa. Moreover, the Bears have six home games for the first time since 2009 and included in that span were just four home games in 2011.

“We have a good schedule,” said head coach Terry Allen. “We have six games in Springfield, and we’re just looking forward to the fall.”

They’re looking forward to it with 21 seniors and 17 returning starters. That includes 10 on defense and a starting quarterback, Kierra Harris, who has experience.

The team leader in stature is junior safety Caleb Schaffitzel, who has been a common sight on FCS preseason All-America teams. He returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against North Dakota State last year.

“He’s just one of those great kids to coach,” Allen said.

Allen said sophomore running back Ryan Heaston can be

“a great running back in

this league if we keep him healthy.” He had a pair of

100-yard efforts, including 148 at South Dakota State. He broke a rib in his seventh game of the season.

Still, the Bears finished eighth in the league, were 3-8 overall and averaged fewer than 9,000 fans a game at Plaster Sports Complex. Their preseason prediction this year was as varied as it gets – they were picked in eight different spots in the 10-team conference.

“Obviously Missouri State hasn’t been up there in recent years, but we have a lot of things to build on,” Allen said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia