Here's a look at five things to know about UND football's FCS playoff opponent Missouri State. The Bears and Fighting Hawks play Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Alerus Center.
1. This is new territory for Missouri State
Missouri State is in the FCS playoffs for the first time in 30 years.
The last time the Bears were in the FCS playoffs was 1990 in a first-round game against Idaho, when current Missouri State coach Bobby Petrino was an assistant coach for the Vandals.
Idaho beat Missouri State 41-35 at Plaster Stadium.
Entering the 2020-21 season, Petrino took over a 1-10 Missouri State program that hadn't had a winning season since 2009.
In 1990, UND was 7-3 overall under head coach Roger Thomas and 18 years away from moving to NCAA Division I.
2. Missouri State gets after the QB
Something will have to give between UND and Missouri State when it comes to the Bears' pass rush.
UND has only given up one sack to Tommy Schuster all season -- a 1-yard loss in a comfortable UND win at Western Illinois.
But Missouri State has a school-record 27 sacks this season, which leads all of FCS. The Bears' pressure is mixed as 18 different players have contributed to the 27 sacks.
Missouri State's 2.67 sacks per game is second in Missouri Valley Football Conference play to UND.
Missouri State's defense is led by defensive end Kevin Ellis, who has 6.0 sacks. Ellis is a 6-foot-4, 241-pound junior from Fort Worth, Texas.
Ellis was a second-team all-league pick, alongside teammate Eric Johnson, who's 6-5 and 286 pounds. Johnson has 5.5 tackles for loss.
3. We still don't know Missouri State's QB
It remains a guessing game who Missouri State will start at quarterback.
The Bears have rotated between Jaden Johnson and Matt Struck.
Struck suffered a concussion in Missouri State's final game against Youngstown State and didn't participate in workouts last week.
Struck was the Idaho State quarterback in 2019 when UND was beat 55-20 in Pocatello. Struck was 23-for-41 passing for 396 yards and five touchdowns in that game.
This year, Struck has played in six games and is 41-for-64 passing for 477 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson has played in seven games. He's 92-for-165 for three touchdowns to six interceptions.
Johnson, a Southern Miss transfer, is considered more of the running threat, as he has carried 87 times for 76 yards. Struck has carried 18 times for 15 yards.
4. Missouri State has been to the Al before
The last time Missouri State came to Grand Forks and visited the Alerus Center, it wasn't much fun for the visitors.
UND beat the Bears 34-0 on Sept. 9, 2017, in front of 12,057 Potato Bowl fans.
It was a breakout day for then-sophomore Noah Wanzek, who has 117 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Brady Oliviera added 16 carries for 164 yards.
UND's current roster features a few players from that game.
Fighting Hawks linebacker Ray Haas had three tackles and an interception against Missouri State in 2017, while linebacker Jaxson Turner had four tackles and cornerback Evan Holm had three tackles.
5. Bears coaching staff keeps it in the family
Missouri State coach Bobby Petrino, who has a coaching background filled with controversy, likes to keep his assistant coaching hires in the family, apparently.
His son Nick Petrino is Missouri State's offensive coordinator. His son-in-law Ryan Beard is the defensive coordinator. Another son-in-law, L.D. Scott, coaches the defensive line.
Bobby Petrino was head coach at Louisville from 2014 until being fired during the 2018 season. He was also the head coach at Arkansas from 2008-2011, and he was dismissed from that position in the spring of 2012 for covering up an affair with a football department staffer which became public following a motorcycle accident.
Petrino also coached the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL for the first 13 games of the 2007 season before quitting to take the head coaching job at Arkansas.