At 4-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, MSU is tied with Illinois State (a team the Bears have already beat) for third place in the league. A win at Southern Illinois this weekend would give the Bears their most league wins since 1990, which was also the last time MSU made the FCS playoffs.
It’s been a roller coaster season that began with an 0-4 start in the non-conference schedule, followed by losing two of the first three MVFC games.
But somehow, some way, the Bears are on the upswing/
MSU has finally found some offense to go with its stellar defense, and the results have been three straight convincing wins. Their game this Saturday will have long-term and short-term implications.
A win, and the Bears keep their slim hopes for the p-word (I can’t bring myself to type it and jinx it) alive. The Bears would be 5-6 overall and 5-2 in the MVFC, with a regular season finale at home the following week against last-place Northern Iowa.
You wouldn’t think a .500-level record would be good enough to get into the FCS playoffs, but the Bears have a few things working to their advantage.
For one, they play in what’s usually viewed as one of the toughest conferences in the FCS. Generally, the MVFC sends multiple teams to the playoffs. That at-large bid may be a pipe dream with a 6-6 overall record, but at least at 6-2 and alone in third place, the Bears would have chance.
In speaking with the media this week, Allen said: “If we can get this one (at Southern Illinois), then we’re coming home and might be playing for something pretty specially. So we gotta make sure they know that, but also stay in the mindset that it’s one game at a time.”
So, you mean to say MSU’s season might not be over after playing Northern Iowa on Nov. 16?
“(Players) understand that,” Allen said. “We’ve made sure of that.”
The FCS playoffs also expanded from 20 to 24 teams for the 2013 season. While it may have been bleak to get a bid two or three years ago, the Bears could land in one of those new playoff spots.
Here’s a recap of how many MVFC teams have made the playoffs in the last five years. Keep in mind, between 2010-2012, there were 10 at-large spots available. There are 13 at-large spots this year.
• 2012 – League champ: North Dakota State; At-large: Illinois State, South Dakota State
• 2011 – League champ: North Dakota State; At-large: Northern Iowa
• 2010 – League champ: Northern Iowa; At-large: North Dakota State, Western Illinois
• 2009 – League champ: Southern Illinois; At-large: South Dakota State *16-team playoff, 8 at-large spots
• 2008 – League champ: Northern Iowa; At-large: Southern Illinois *16-team playoff, 8 at-large spots
In the interest of full disclosure, the easy case against the Bears’ playoff chances would be that none of those at-large teams in the last five years had a .500-level record. That just makes the Bears’ early season struggles all the more frustrating.
If they don’t somehow pull a loss from the jaws of victory against Murray State, Central Arkansas and South Dakota, they’re at least 6-4 and a near-lock for the playoffs if they win out.
Let’s play along and say the Bears win their last two games, defy the odds, and squeak into the playoffs with one of the last at-large bids.
Suddenly, your head coach goes from the hot seat to the contract-extension seat. Allen will have given the Bears their most league victories and first playoff appearance in over 20 years. He also would go into 2014 in the final year of his contract.
You have to bring him back for 2014 and let the contract play out, but now do you reward him with an extension? Does one improbable late-season run into a playoff spot outweigh seven seasons of average-to-above average football?
It would be hard for Allen to go on the recruiting trail, coming off a breakthrough playoff appearance for the school, and try to land players while they know his contract will be up after their first season at MSU.
That contract extension depends on if the Bears can win at Southern Illinois, then return home and beat Northern Iowa (something Allen has never done at MSU.) Past history would tell us that this is the classic MSU sports scenario where we slightly get our hopes up, only to be let down.
If they lose one or both of the next two games, we could see a lot of changes with MSU football before next season. A “lame duck” situation would not be ideal for anyone.
Still, it’s a refreshing change that basketball season is about to start and the football Bears still have something to play for.
(West Plains) – The time for the West Plains High School varsity boys soccer game at Branson Saturday has been changed from 11:00am to 10:00am.
The junior varsity game will follow.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sean Smith backpedalled into the end zone with the scout-team wide receiver, careful not to lay a hand on him. When the quarterback let go of the ball, the Chiefs’ cornerback quickly jumped on it, snapping it away for an easy interception.
It was perfect coverage. Perfect technique.
It was an important play for Smith to make in more ways than one.
Not only is the veteran cornerback trying to win back his starting job in a defensive backfield that is still unsettled, he’s trying to do it while adjusting to the league’s renewed emphasis on illegal contact and holding that is making life harder than ever for players at his position.
“You have to learn how to use your feet, especially if you’re going to press,” Smith said. “They’re going to let you get one good pop, and from there on, hands are off. You have to put yourself in good position.”
Total penalties are up nearly 44 percent from the first two preseason games last year, according to figures released by the NFL. More specifically, there have been 55 illegal contact penalties compared to eight last year, and 107 holds compared to 20 during the 2013 preseason.
“The biggest thing, you don’t want to stop being aggressive,” Smith said. “That’ll change your whole game. You still want to be physical.”
That rings especially true in Kansas City, where general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid tend to favor bigger, more physical defensive backs over smaller, quicker ones.
“Your technique has got to be on point,” fellow cornerback Chris Owens said. “What happens, especially for me and I can only speak for myself, if you mess up on your technique you start to grab and pull, so you’ve got to be sound with your technique.”
That physical nature is a big reason why Smith was brought in last year. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, he’s among the biggest cornerbacks in the league, and his ability to give wide receivers a legal mugging at the line of scrimmage is what has made him successful throughout his career.
Now, his ability to adjust to the changing rules could be a factor in just how much he plays this season. Smith had been shuffled down the depth chart early in camp, and now he’s trying to work his way back as the Chiefs attempt to find a starting defensive backfield – a problem that has been compounded by the loss of Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry to a nagging heel injury.
In that pursuit, the Chiefs traded backup offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson to Tampa Bay on Thursday for Kelcie McCray, who has played with the Dolphins and Buccaneers the past two seasons.
“We’re going to roll them through and keep going,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of his defensive backs. “Each of them has had some really good plays and probably some they could do better. But I think the competition has been good, and we’re going to need all those guys.”
Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker started at the two cornerback spots early in camp, and Smith has barged back into the conversation. But there is precious little depth behind them, which means the Chiefs could be scouring the waiver wire after the first round of cuts next week.
Behind them, Husain Abdullah has held down the free safety job and Berry is expected back by the regular season. But if he can’t go, undrafted rookie Daniel Sorenson and journeyman Malcolm Bronson are the two most likely candidates to get the nod.
Not exactly encouraging in the flag-filled world of the NFL these days.
“It’s being called real tight and we knew that coming in,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It sounds like they’re going to continue to call them, and you just hope it doesn’t turn spectators from the game. They get bored watching the officials throw the ball more than the quarterback.”
Notes: RB Jamaal Charles (foot) returned to practice for the first time in a week, though he is unlikely to play Saturday night against Minnesota. RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring) also returned to practice. … Berry, WR Dwayne Bowe (quad) and Joe Mays (wrist) were among those who did not participate in the workout.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have acquired safety Kelcie McCray from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for offensive guard Rishaw Johnson in a move that should bolster depth for both teams.
McCray entered the league with Miami as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State. He’s appeared in 15 games over the past two seasons with the Dolphins and Buccaneers.
The Chiefs are desperate for help at safety, particularly with Eric Berry still dealing with a nagging heel injury. Undrafted rookie Daniel Sorensen has been pressed into a starting role.
Johnson has appeared in three games over parts of two seasons for Kansas City. He had slid down the depth chart after the Chiefs acquired several other linemen in the draft and free agency.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jamaal Charles returned to Chiefs practice Thursday for the first time since hurting his foot last week, though he’s unlikely to play in Saturday night’s preseason game against Minnesota.
Charles hurt the foot last Thursday while moving out of the dormitories at Missouri Western, where the Chiefs start their training camp workouts. He did not make the trip to Carolina for their second preseason game last weekend.
Wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas returned after missing a day of practice with spasms in his hamstring. Defensive back Chris Owens was also back on the field after leaving a day earlier with a knee injury.
Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and linebacker Joe Mays did not practice.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The man who performs as the Kansas City Chiefs’ mascot has reached a legal settlement over severe injuries he suffered last November while practicing a zip line routine.
Lawyers for Dan Meers, better known as KC Wolf, announced the settlement Thursday but said the terms prevent disclosure of the dollar amount or the parties involved.
Attorney Tim Dollar said in a news release that Meers is still recovering and is talking with the Chiefs about a modified role as KC Wolf in the future.
Meers has performed as KC Wolf since the Chiefs adopted the mascot 24 years ago. He suffered what was described as a severe back injury Nov. 23 while practicing the zip line routine at Arrowhead Stadium.
Few details have been disclosed, but Dollar said earlier there may have been an error by a third-party company in securing the rigging.
DENVER (AP) — Danny Duffy chose to find fault with his fastball rather than his fielder.
Duffy was cruising along until a throwing error opened the door for a grand slam by Matt McBride that sent the Colorado Rockies to a 5-2 win over the rolling Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
“I feel terrible for the mistake I made,” Duffy said.
With one swing, McBride derailed the Royals’ roll, snapping their three-game winning streak. Kansas City saw its lead in the AL Central shrink to one over Detroit.
Duffy was in command most of the night as he allowed five hits and five runs, one earned, in seven innings. After getting two quick outs in the sixth, third baseman Christian Colon fielded a grounder by Nolan Arenado and threw a one-hopper that first baseman Billy Butler couldn’t scoop. Wilin Rosario singled and Corey Dickerson drew a walk to set the stage for McBride.
Another hard-luck loss for Duffy (8-11), who’s the only AL starter with a losing record and an ERA under three runs.
“I can’t lose focus like I did on that one pitch,” said Duffy, whose team finished 15-5 in interleague play. “He knew it was coming. If I locate that better then it’s probably a ground ball.”
Colon shouldered the blame, too.
“I wish I could take it back and make the play,” he said. “I should have made the play.”
It was McBride’s first homer since Sept. 25, 2012, and third of his career. He was called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs the day before after what’s been a tumultuous past two seasons. He missed a big chunk of 2013 after undergoing neck surgery and was out earlier this year with a broken foot.
“Another guy with a great story, who’s been through a lot,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
That was more than enough for Jorge De La Rosa (13-8), who allowed five hits and two run against his former team. He also got the Royals to hit into four double plays, tying a franchise record for most by a single pitcher in a game.
Even more, he improved to 9-2 at Coors Field – a place that’s haunted many a pitcher, but not the hard-throwing lefty.
“I like to pitch here,” De La Rosa said. “It’s a challenge for me every time I pitch here.”
GORDON GOES YARD
Usually, when Alex Gordon homers, the Royals win this season. They’re 11-2 when he goes deep in a game.
Gordon’s solo shot in the second was his 14th homer of the season.
This was just the second time De La Rosa faced his old team. He spent two seasons with the Royals before being dealt to Colorado in 2008 for cash considerations.
He was cashing in on his changeup to get out of one jam after another.
“His changeup, that’s his moneymaker,” Weiss said. “It’s a great pitch.”
Royals manager Ned Yost seconded that opinion.
“His changeup is a killer,” said Yost, whose team has won 22 of their last 28 games. “It’s a hard pitch to pick up.”
Royals: C Salvador Perez was a late scratch because of tightness in his right knee. He will have a precautionary MRI on Thursday.
Rockies: OF Michael Cuddyer was out another day with a strained left hamstring. He said he’s confident he will be back in the lineup Friday.
Royals: After a day off, Kansas City begins a three-game series in Texas. Yordano Ventura (9-9) will start Friday. His nine wins are third-most among rookies this season.
Rockies: The Rockies have their second off day this week on Thursday. They begin a three-game series with Miami on Friday. LHP Franklin Morales (5-6) will get the start after missing his last turn in the rotation for the birth of his daughter.
(West Plains) – The start time for the Friday, August 22 West Plains High School Varsity football game at Waynesville has been changed from 7:00pm to 7:30pm.
School officials state that spectators may enter the stadium at 6:30pm.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals are finding new ways to get walk-off wins.
Jon Jay was hit by a pitch from J.J. Hoover with the bases-loaded in the ninth inning, lifting the Cardinals to a 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
The walk-off victory was the second in two nights for the Cardinals, who won for the fifth time in six games and remained 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Jhonny Peralta’s RBI single in the 10th inning Monday provided St. Louis with a thrilling last-at-bat triumph.
Matt Holliday drew a leadoff walk to start Tuesday’s winning rally. He advanced to third on Matt Adams’ single. After Peter Bourjos ran for Holliday, Peralta walked to load the bases. Hoover (1-10) then plunked Jay to force in Bourjos with the winning run.
“It’s not like you hope to get hit by a pitch every time,” Jay said. “But I’ll take it.”
St. Louis got its sixth walk-off win of the season. The Cardinals also posted consecutive wins in such fashion July 7-8 against Pittsburgh.
The Reds lost in walk-off fashion for the third time in the last four games. They are a season-high 10 games out of first place.
“(Two walk-offs) in a row isn’t fun,” Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier said. “It’s crazy, I’ve never been around something like that. I never want to see it again.”
Jay scored the tying run in the eighth on pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso’s RBI double off reliever Jumbo Diaz.
“Call it whatever you want to call it, but we’re just playing better baseball right now,” Descalso said. “We’ve got down the last couple nights and we’ve come back. That’s always a good sign.”
Reliever Pat Neshek (6-0) pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Frazier put the Reds in front 2-1, with a two-run homer in the fourth. It was his 21st home run of the season, but first since July 20.
Cincinnati starter Alfredo Simon gave up three runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings. He struck out two and walked one.
St. Louis starter John Lackey gave up four runs, two earned, in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Cincinnati scored twice in the sixth on a bases-loaded double by former Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Errors by Holliday and Matt Carpenter and a walk set the stage for Ludwick’s hit, which pushed the lead to 4-1.
But the Reds’ taxed bullpen was unable to hold the lead.
“Short starts have bit us on the tail this road trip,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. “It blows up the bullpen.”
Peralta homered in the sixth to cut the deficit to 4-2. It was Peralta’s 17th home run of the season, setting the single-season mark for a St. Louis shortstop. Jay and Oscar Taveras followed with hits before pinch-hitter Shane Robinson singled off reliever Sam LeCure to bring the Cardinals to 4-3.
“I feel like the last two nights have felt like playoff games,” Adams said.
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead on a run-scoring single by Holliday in the third.
Reds: Closer Aroldis Chapman was unavailable Tuesday for the second night in a row with what manager Bryan Price called an, “achy,” shoulder. The reliever is listed as day-to-day by the Reds training staff. Chapman has 26 saves in 28 chances. He walked four successive batters on Sunday in Colorado.
Cardinals: INF Mark Ellis was put on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. Ellis, who is hitting .192 with 12 RBI, last played on Tuesday. INF Greg Garcia was recalled from Triple-A Memphis in time for Tuesday’s contest. Garcia was hitting .273 with 40 RBI in 103 games for the Redbirds.
JAY KEEPS ROLLING
St. Louis OF Jon Jay extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the second, the first of two hits. He is 15 for 31 during the run and reached base four times Tuesday.
Reds: RHP Johnny Cueto (15-6, 2.06) will start the final game of the three-game set. Cueto is 7-0 with a 2.24 ERA over his last eight starts. His seven-game winning streak is a career high.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (13-8, 2.91) will make his team-leading 26th start of the season. He is 5-1 lifetime against the Reds
DENVER (AP) — Ned Yost never has a bad birthday, but a win helps make the occasion much more special.
Omar Infante had three doubles and drove in four runs to help the streaking Kansas City Royals beat the Colorado Rockies 7-4 on Tuesday night.
It also brought a smile to Yost, who turned 60.
“For 35 years I’ve always thought I’ve been a winner on every one of my birthdays because I’m with a group of guys I really like and have fun being around,” he said. “But when you win the game it makes it that much more sweeter.”
The Royals have been celebrating a lot lately. Since dropping two games below .500 on July 21 they have won 22 of 27 to move two games ahead of Detroit in the AL Central.
They even won with ace James Shields not having his best stuff.
“It was a grind day. It was one of those days where I didn’t have my good stuff at all,” he said. “You’re going to go through days like that and you battle through it.”
Shields pitched six solid innings to get the win for the Royals, who are a major league best 15-4 in interleague play.
It took a while but they did get to Colorado rookie Tyler Matzek in the seventh.
Matzek (2-9) came into Tuesday with a 9.60 ERA in August but was having his best outing since blanking Pittsburgh over seven innings on July 26 when he ran into trouble with two outs in the seventh. Matzek got the first two outs before allowing a pinch-hit single to Josh Willingham and walking Nori Aoki.
Adam Ottavino came on and gave up consecutive doubles to Infante and Salvador Perez to give the Royals a 4-2 lead.
“It was a great at-bat. Ottavino was throwing hard, good slider,” Billy Butler said. “It woke me up. He had good stuff and Omar stepped up.”
The Royals scored three more runs in the eighth off Colorado’s bullpen. Infante had a two-run double with the bases loaded.
It was the second time in his career he has had three doubles in a game. The last time, May 27, 2004, came against the Royals when he was playing for Detroit.
“Omar’s swing is so simple, it’s not a lot of moving parts,” Yost said. “He can get on a streak in a hurry.”
That made a winner of Shields (12-6), who allowed two runs on nine hits and struck out six. He wasn’t sharp, allowing base runners in every inning but his last and struck out Drew Stubbs with the bases loaded to end the fourth.
Stubbs and Nolan Arenado each had three hits and a home run for Colorado.
Arenado went deep in the fifth to give Colorado a 2-1 lead and Stubbs hit a two-run homer in the ninth, when the Rockies mounted a rally. Greg Holland came on and threw one pitch to record his 39th save in 40 chances.
“They get a lead after six innings, they pretty much wipe you out,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “That’s been the formula for them this year. Guys come in throwing in the upper 90s and throwing strikes.”
Justin Morneau, back in the lineup after missing two games with a stiff neck, gave Colorado a 1-0 lead with a double-play grounder in the first.
Kansas City tied it in the fourth on Lorenzo Cain’s RBI double.
Yost was starting his postgame news conference when first base coach Rusty Kuntz interrupted to present the manager with a cake. Kuntz then sang “Happy Birthday” and gave Yost a hug before leaving his office.
Infante wasn’t the only Royals player to record a two-bagger. Kansas City had six doubles for the first time since July 29, 2011, at Cleveland.
Royals: Perez returned to the lineup after being pulled from Monday’s game with a sore knee.
Rockies: OF Michael Cuddyer was scratched from the lineup with a sore left hamstring. Manager Walt Weiss said it wasn’t a long-term issue, adding that playing a doubleheader Sunday led to the soreness. Cuddyer hit for the cycle in the second game of the Rockies’ sweep.
Royals: Red-hot Kansas City will go for a season sweep of the Rockies with lefty Danny Duffy on the mound. Duffy (8-10) has won a career-high three straight starts.
Rockies: Colorado’s lone bright spot on the mound, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, will face his former team Wednesday. De La Rosa (12-8) made 33 starts for the Royals in 2006-07 before joining the Rockies. He has accounted for nearly a quarter of Colorado’s 49 wins this season.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Walking Billy Hamilton to start the ninth inning was a bad sign for Trevor Rosenthal. For the second straight game, the St. Louis Cardinals picked up their young closer.
“We’re digging our heels in,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after Jhonny Peralta singled in the winning run in the 10th for a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. “That’s what I love about this club.”
Jay Bruce homered, doubled and knocked in four runs for the Reds, giving him nine RBIs in four games. Brandon Phillips returned from left thumb surgery wearing a brace and was 0 for 4 with a walk.
The Reds have dropped seven of nine and are 18-30 in one-run games.
Peralta had three hits, and his RBI single in the first was just his second in 32 at-bats against the Reds this season. He also doubled and scored the tying run on A.J. Pierzynski’s hit off Jumbo Diaz in the eighth.
“When we win like that, everybody gets excited,” Peralta said.
Logan Ondrusek (3-3) entered with one out in the 10th and gave up consecutive singles to Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and Peralta. Ondrusek (strained right shoulder) was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day.
“I wanted to go with more of the fresh arm there, and this isn’t Logan’s first time around the block and his first time here,” manager Bryan Price said. “It just didn’t happen tonight.”
Bruce doubled off Rosenthal to tie it in the ninth after Hamilton drew a leadoff walk, then stole his 46th base and went to third with one out. Rosenthal was pulled after walking the bases full with one out on Sunday, and Seth Maness finished for his second save.
Rosenthal has allowed four runs in 2 1-3 innings in his last three outings.
“It was actually not that bad, we just walked the wrong guy,” Matheny said. “You put that guy on base, we’re in straight defense mode trying to figure out how to limit the damage.”
Maness retired Zack Cozart on a foul pop with the bases loaded to end the top of the eighth.
Bruce’s three-run homer, his 14th shot of the season, capped a four-run fifth against Justin Masterson for a 4-3 lead. Bruce also set a franchise record with his 890th game in right field, breaking the mark by Ival Goodman from 1935-42.
Pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso’s RBI double off Mike Leake tied it in the seventh.
Reds: Closer Aroldis Chapman was unavailable and is day to day with shoulder soreness, a day after he walked four straight batters before getting pulled in the first game of a doubleheader at Colorado. 2B Phillips played his fourth straight game, counting rehab games. “If he’s physically OK, he’s going to play a lot,” Price said.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha, on the DL since mid-June with a shoulder injury, got positive reviews from his latest bullpen session Monday.
Reds: Alfredo Simon (12-8, 3.28) makes his 14th appearance against the Cardinals and first start. He is 15-3 with a 2.70 in 18 career starts before the All-Star break and 0-5 with a 5.46 ERA in six starts after the break.
Cardinals: John Lackey (1-1, 6.18) makes his fourth start since coming from Boston in a trade deadline deal, and faces the Reds for just the second time in his career. He is 12-8 with a 3.19 overall and 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA against NL teams this year.
Holliday, Hamilton and Oscar Taveras made nice catches at the wall in left, center and right, respectively. … Actor and Cardinals super fan Jon Hamm, who grew up in suburban St. Louis, bounced a soft first pitch to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. … Leake, who also doubled, has two homers and four RBIs this season.