by Rick Kindhart
Since being announced as Missouri State’s new head football coach on Jan. 16, Bobby Petrino has been waiting patiently to see his Bears scrimmage for the first time. Three weeks into fall camp, he finally got that opportunity Friday as his squad ran around a hundred intrasquad plays, including special teams work, on a sunny afternoon at Plaster Stadium.
“I thought they went out and played hard,” said Petrino who begins his 15th season as a collegiate head coach. “It was very competitive on both sides of the ball. We tried to work our special teams in there. We got a lot of work there to improve on, but I did like the energy, the hustle and fire that everybody played with.”
The offensive unit produced five scoring drives, including an impressive 75-yard march on the opening series. A Jaden Johnson-led attack found pay dirt just nine plays into the session with the redshirt freshman signal caller punching it into the end zone himself from four yards out for the first score of the day.
Johnson completed an impressive 77 percent of his passes on the afternoon and engineered scoring drives in four of his five possessions. He second drive with the first unit culminated in a 35-yard field goal by newcomer Jose Pizano, who capped the grind-it-out, 16-play sequence.
Pizano later capped another Johnson-led drive with a 29-yard field goal before transfer Keshun Parker scored on a three-yard run two possessions later to conclude a 10-play march by the offense.
Parker also had a one-yard scoring run with the second unit led by redshirt freshman quarterback Ty Baker.
“I thought we made some big plays on offense,” said Petrino. “But not as many big plays as I was hoping to see. I think some of that was the defensive secondary is pretty good, and they tackled pretty well for the most part.”
Part of the secondary’s success was senior safety Titus Wall who came up with a big interception midway through the scrimmage. His pick marked the only time Johnson’s unit failed to score, and it served as a moment of rejuvenation for the defensive unit.
“It feels great to get the first scrimmage out of the way and execute everything we’ve been learning,” said Wall, who tallied 58 tackles last season. “I’m already looking forward to the next (scrimmage).”
The other interception came from fellow safety Terrell Dawson Jr., while three other defenders – Paris Jackson, Brock Carter and Jeremy Webb – all broke up key passes. The defensive unit also tallied five sacks on the afternoon.
The three quarterbacks who saw action Friday — Johnson, Baker and Darrias Pearsall – combined to complete 30 passes to nine different pass receivers. Vick was the squad’s top target, hauling in six receptions for 71 yards.
“It was just great to be out there flying around out there with the guys,” said Johnson. “Just being able to come together as a team and see how we look on the first day of actually scrimmaging instead of practicing and practicing. We just tried to take what the defense gave us and keep moving the chains.”
With three weeks remaining before the team’s Sept. 12 opener at Oklahoma, Petrino noted that Friday’s first scrimmage will serve as litmus test to chart the team’s progress headed into the final week of August.
“We’ve got a lot to work on,” said Petrino. “It was good to get the ‘testing’ in. We’ve been teaching and practicing, and today was a test. It will be fun to watch the video and see how everyone grades out.”