by Rick Kindhart
With less than two weeks before Missouri State’s football season opener at Northern Arizona, the Bears’ final scrimmage of the preseason here Saturday took on a more urgent look and feel with both sides of the ball making big plays.
“I liked the enthusiasm, I liked the hustle,” said head coach Dave Steckel. “Guys were out there competing. I liked that. We’re doing a lot of good things out there, we really are. But obviously, as coaches we have to fix the bad things too. So there are still a lot of little things that get you beat that we have to address.”
Similar to last week’s intrasquad showdown, the offense was able to move the ball at times behind precision passing and an opportunistic rushing attack, while the defense waited for its opportunities to strike, forcing one key turnover, three sacks and more than a dozen “minus” plays.
“I thought both teams (offense and defense) were really flying around,” Steckel noted. “The defense had some guys who stepped up, and good things come to those who run.”
Early on, it was senior quarterback Peyton Huslig setting the tone as he completed eight of his first 10 passes, including a 62-yarder to Tyler Currie on his first completion of the session.
Huslig’s understudies Dalton Hill and JT Granato also had big passing days, each tossing a pair of touchdown passes in the second half.
Both Granato and Hill threw “green zone” scoring strikes as Granato connected with Antwan Woods and Hill found senior Aaron Denson. Both signal callers also excelled in the two-minute offense with Granato floating a perfect pass to Isaac Smith on a six-yard TD strike and Hill finding tight end Jordan Murray from seven yards out.
Newcomer DJ Frost scored the first touchdown of the game on a Hill-led 65-yard scoring drive in the opening half. Hill connected with Isaiah Allred on a 49-yard completion to set up Frost’s 13-yard rush to paydirt moments later.
Preseason All-MVFC linebacker Angelo Garbutt picked a Granato pass in the first half and returned it 12 yards to end an early rally by the maroon-clad offense. Garbutt was quick to give credit to his teammates on the only take-away of the day for the Missouri State defense.
“It was a team play,” Garbutt said. “Everyone was in the right place and doing what they were supposed to do, which is what we want. I was just in the right place when the ball got there.”
With classes beginning Monday at Missouri State, the team will begin its regular practice regimen this week in preparation for its Aug. 29 opener in Flagstaff.