This reporter will admit to being somewhat surprised (pleasantly) at the inclusion of the Missouri State Bears in the historic first ever spring FCS football playoffs. Surprised, not because they didn’t belong, quite the contrary, but rather because I didn’t think the committee would invite any more than three teams from the Missouri Valley Conference into the championship hunt.
Had this been the planned 24 team field of hopefuls, which it would have been prior to the advent of Covid-19, then the Bears participation would have been fully expected. But, with a reduced 16 team field, three teams from any league is a lot …. and the Valley will have five teams in the hunt!
Therein folks is testimony to the prevailing opinion that this little old league in which the Bears compete, and a league that includes the eight time reigning national champions, just deserves the moniker of “best FCS league in the nation.”
When I saw the name Southern Illinois emerge on the screen, my reaction was a non-articulated “WHAT?” The Bears beat them! C’mon, where’s the justice?
And a few seconds later, the challenge was answered with the revelation that the Bears would be visiting North Dakota to play a game that twice perviously had been voided from the schedule.
The first game of this 2021 spring season was to have been the Bears visiting the Fighting Hawks at their home in Grand Forks. That game was changed because of Indiana State’s opting out of the spring season and the schedule being revised.
The later date was set for April 3rd, but that game was scrubbed because of Covid protocol.
So, now on April 24th, will be the collision and it’ll be the first round of the playoffs.
Sure, the Bears will be the underdogs. But, don’t sell this scrappy bunch from the Ozarks short. The Petrino’s CAN play … and WILL. North Dakota has not played a game for a month and there’ll be some rust on the Hawks’ feathers. Regardless, this is a heck of an achievement and much good luck to the Maroon and White.