UND football will see revamped Missouri State offense

The Bears have a new quarterback, Jason Shelley, and he leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in total offense. The dual-threat quarterback is averaging 307 yards per game.

UND's Graham Devore tackles Missouri State quarterback Jaden Johnson at the 1-yard line in the second half of their game Saturday, April 23, 2021 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

When Missouri State came to Grand Forks for the first round of the FCS playoffs last spring, UND's defense feasted on the Bears' quarterbacks.

Matt Struck was sacked seven times and backup Jaden Johnson was sacked once for UND's Division I record of eight sacks in a game.

The Fighting Hawks will have a greater challenge in the rematch as UND visits Missouri State at 2 p.m. Saturday at Plaster Stadium in Springfield, Mo.

The Bears have a new quarterback, Jason Shelley, and he leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in total offense. The dual-threat quarterback is averaging 307 yards per game.

Shelley, a 5-foot-11 redshirt junior from Frisco, Texas, is at his third collegiate stop after brief starting stints at both Utah and Utah State.


"I think their QB has made a difference," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "He can hurt you with his feet. He's throwing it well, so they're a very balanced team. They're a different team than they were in the spring, and they're having good results because of it."

Shelley has had big passing games with 372 yards against Youngstown State and 319 against Illinois State. He's also produced running the ball when he had 17 carries for 62 yards and two touchdowns against South Dakota. He's ran the ball at least 10 times in six of the team's seven games.

"I think you have to mix it up on him and try confuse him a bit but he's got some experience and has played a lot of snaps," Schweigert said. "The challenge will be to contain him. There's no plan when you drop back to pass and the quarterback takes off to run. We'll have to do the best we can and hopefully we can get him to hold the ball a little bit."

Where UND ranks No. 1 in the country in sacks allowed with just three in seven games, Missouri State ranks 121st in the country out of 123 teams in sacks allowed. The Bears have been sacked 29 times for an average of 4.14 sacks allowed per game.

After a slow start to the season, UND's defensive pressure has ramped up of late. The Fighting Hawks have 14 sacks as a team for an average of 2.0 per game.

Of the 14 sacks, 10 have come in the last three weeks. UND had at least three sacks against South Dakota, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois.

Individually, only UND linebacker Ty Shannon has more than one sack with 2.0. Last week against WIU, UND was able to net three sacks despite playing without two starting defensive lineman in Jalen Morrison and Jaelen Johnson.

"That's a long tradition of ours for years," Schweigert said. "You try to gain advantage by bringing different guys. The last few years it's been more secondary guys. We probably do that more than other teams and change who's coming in order to beat protections.


"Our staff works on that throughout the year. The credit really goes to the players. You have to stay relentless. You're going to get blocked. It's the guys who don't stay blocked and can really keep tracking the quarterback and give great effort and that's how you get sacks."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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