Vidette blogger Jason Dietz dives into the Missouri Valley Conference through the men's athletics side, including the start of conference play for all MVC football teams.
Missouri Valley Conference 10/3
The MVC is dominating the FCS National Polls. Five teams are ranked in the top 20: North Dakota State (1), South Dakota State (3), Illinois State (6), Northern Iowa (13), and Youngstown State (17).
North Dakota State leads the way in the FCS National Polls at No. 1 and for good reason. SS Michael Tutsie has been an absolute beast on the defensive side of the ball. He helped secure the game for the Bison with a goal-line interception late in the fourth quarter. Tutsie is leading the team in tackles and is a big reason why they are off to a 4-0 start. The Bison are averaging a whopping 42.2 points per game and continue to win ball games like years past. QB Trey Lance has the skills, both passing and rushing, to have a successful college career and keep this team on top. So far, Lance has thrown 698 yards and 9 touchdowns, with 289 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground this season. With these two leading the way on both sides of the ball, this team has high expectations. I can see them taking it all again, winning three consecutive FCS National Championships.
Former NDSU Coach Chris Klieman already has his new team off to a hot start. Since taking over for the Big 12’s Kansas State Wildcats, Klieman has brought a winning culture to the locker room. The Wildcats are now 3-1 heading into this weekend. He also coached current Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz when he helped lead the Bison to an FCS title back in 2015. It is great to see him get the recognition he deserved after all those winning years in the MVC. A lot of people did not expect him to start off this way due to the difficult transition into the FBS level. He continues to show why he is one of the most underrated college coaches in NCAA history. Klieman and the Wildcats have a big game coming up against Baylor this Saturday.
Key Games to watch this weekend
North Dakota State (1) vs. Illinois State University (6)
Youngstown State (17) vs. Northern Iowa (13)
The Missouri State Bears continue their impressive undefeated streak at 8-0 after beating Omaha Tuesday night in a thriller. The Bears just hung on in double overtime, taking the win in a 1-0 victory. They moved up to No. 17 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll and have opened up many eyes in the Missouri Valley Conference as a result of their clutch performances and five shutout victories. With their best start since 1995, the Bears are primed to make a deep run this season.
Loyola University’s own Aidan Megally won MVC Offensive Player of the Week, dazzling his way to the game-winning goal in double overtime against Drake. Megally has been a force to be reckoned with on the offensive end, putting in four goals already this season. Not only did he get recognition in the MVC, but he was also named as a member of the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. The Ramblers take on the Northwestern Wildcats next week, where they should continue to use their key offensive weapon to their advantage.
There is no better way to score your first career goal than to hit a game winner against a conference rival. Well, that is exactly how Bradley’s TJ Rea must feel right now after scoring the golden goal in double overtime against Valparaiso this past Tuesday. The Braves were peppering the Crusaders' goaltender, putting up 26 shots on the night. This comes after averaging just 11.3 shots per game this season. Bradley seemed to gain the upper hand the longer the game played out, staying undefeated in overtime with a record of 1-0-3 this season. This team looks to be in tip-top shape heading into its homecoming game against Drake.
Speaking of Drake, the Bulldogs took third place at the Gans Creek Classic this past weekend with a little help from the MVC Cross Country Athlete of the Week Adam Fogg. This is the sophomore's second honor of the season and the team's third overall. Fogg continues to prove his consistent running ability, even in muggy conditions like Friday. MVC rivals ISU and SIU couldn’t keep Fogg from finishing in second place, jumping three spots throughout the 3,000-meter race.
Valparaiso University’s Garrett Willis put on a show at the Zach Johnson Invitational, posting a 215 (+2) on the par-71 course. After getting familiar with the course throughout Monday, he took over on the last 18 holes, going one under in dominating fashion. Willis brought home the Crusaders' fifth MVC Golfer of the Week award since joining the conference. An absolutely remarkable achievement for both the players and this university. Willis shares this award with Illinois State University’s own David Perkins, who scored 202 (-11) at the Bearcat Invitational and continues to build on his imposing season.
The Missouri Valley Conference announced its television schedule on CBS Sports Network for this upcoming season. This is great for the conference, which will gain more exposure to the world and give an opportunity for its players to shine on the national stage. CBS will also broadcast the 2020 State Farm MVC Men’s Basketball Championship March 8. ISU will be on CBSN Feb. 26 when it takes on the Bradley Braves here at Redbird Arena, in what should be a hyped affair for Normal.