Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bears Hope for Boost from Defense; Missouri State Is Looking to Improve Its Standing in Missouri Valley

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bears Hope for Boost from Defense; Missouri State Is Looking to Improve Its Standing in Missouri Valley

Article excerpt

Missouri State's pursuit of an improved status in the Missouri Valley Football Conference has often been hindered by its defense, which has surrendered points in bunches during coach Terry Allen's seven seasons.

The Bears have allowed an average of 31.2 points during that stretch. The offense has at times kept pace and Allen broke through with two winning seasons, but a defensive upgrade has been in order.

Allen is quietly optimistic that this is the season. Missouri State returns 10 defensive starters from one of its best units in recent years, sparking confidence that the Bears can crack the upper half of a league that boasts five preseason ranked teams.

"We've gotten better and better each year with that group," Allen said. "Six of those guys have 22 games of starting experience, so that's a good thing."

Opponents averaged 25 points last season when the Bears finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the conference. They continue to pursue their first winning season in the league since 1996.

The key to the defense is safety Caleb Schaffitzel, who emerged from high school in Fair Grove, Mo., as one of the state's most prolific offensive players in history. He amassed 8,551 rushing yards and a state-record 141 touchdowns, but Allen didn't envision him as a running back.

Thankfully, neither did Schaffitzel. As a college sophomore he was voted a third-team All-American by the Associated Press and one organization named him the Football Championship Subdivision defensive back of the year.

"When I first recruited him I asked a couple of questions," Allen said. "I asked if he wanted to play football or baseball, and he said football. So, I asked if he wanted to play offense or defense. He said, 'I like to hit people, so I want to play defense.' I thought he'd be the perfect safety."

Schaffitzel led the team with 109 tackles and five interceptions as a sophomore. …

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