PENGUIN FOOTBALL SMS has lost 3 straight contests
The Bears have never beaten YSU in eight previous games.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Southwest Missouri State's football season has been a lot like Youngstown State's, which should make for an interesting matchup Saturday when the two teams square off at Plaster Field in Springfield, Mo.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
The Bears are 5-5 overall and 2-4 in the Gateway Conference, while YSU is 4-6, 2-4.
The only big difference in the two teams is that while YSU has won two straight, the Bears have lost their last three.
Southwest Missouri State and YSU have both beaten the same two teams in the conference (Indiana State and Western Illinois) and have lost to the same four teams (Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky and Illinois State.)
Last week the Bears had Western Kentucky on the ropes, leading by 10 points going into the final quarter of play only to lose 28-24 as the Hilltoppers scored 14 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes.
The Bears struggled past both Indiana State (31-28) and Western Illinois (36-31) for their two conference wins.
After winning their first three games of the year, the Bears have lost five of their last seven and must face a YSU team that they have never beaten in eight previous meetings.
On offense the Bears are led by a pair of talented players in senior tailback Cody Pratt and junior quarterback A.J. Porter.
Nears 1,000 yard mark
Pratt needs only 60 yards on Saturday to go over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season as he has 940 on 223 carries coming into the game. The 5-foot-10, 215-pounder has scored 10 touchdowns.
Porter (6-4, 225) has completed 146-of-267 passes for 1,718 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's been intercepted nine times.
His top receiver is split end Steven Rush (5-11, 196, Sr.), who has caught 56 passes for 741 yards and eight touchdowns, while flanker Kaya Farris (5-9, 185, Jr.) has 33 catches for 408 yards and one TD.
The Bears average 159.6 yards per game rushing and 184.2 per game passing for 343.8 total. But they've been allowing 430.9 yards per game, including just under 200 yards on the ground.
The defense is led by junior linebacker Darryl Johnson (6-1, 230), who had a career game last week against Western Kentucky with 21 tackles.
Senior cornerback Darren Barnett (5-10, 187) leads the team with seven interceptions and senior safety Jovon Lewis (6-3, 200) has made five picks. As a team the Bears have picked off 17 opponents' passes this season.
Rush is also one of the top return specialists in the country as he averages 25.1 yards on 20 kickoff returns and 15.3 on 10 punt returns.
Junior Jon Scifres is both the Bears' punter and placekicker, averaging 39.7 yards per punt, and has scored a team-high 69 points on the season, including a perfect 13-for-13 in field goals, five over 40 yards and a long of 49 yards and is 30-of-31 in extra points.