SPRINGFIELD, Mo–Every game is critical for the Missouri State Bears.

Bobby Petrino’s team has lost three straight games and will try to turn it around Saturday at 2:00 p.m. against Southern Illinois.

For the 19th ranked Bears, that turn around starts on defense.

There’s been one constant on the defensive side of Missouri State’s practice this week.

Hard hitting fundamentals.

“It’s always hard to look at yourself in the mirror and see where you went wrong. But it’s something that we all have to do in order to get better,” said Missouri State linebacker Von Young.

Von Young and the rest of the Bears are determined to get better by getting back to basics.

Young: “There was a lot of communication errors. And like coach said tackling was an issue. Luckily those are things that can be fixed. So we’re going to focus on that this week.”

In last week’s loss to North Dakota, the Fighting Hawks racked up more than 500 yards of total offense.

“These are hard weeks. This is a challenge. Not only that you didn’t win. And you feel bad about not winning. But it challenges your attitude. It challenges your work ethic. Basically we have to come together as a team,” said Missouri State coach Bobby Petrino.

The Bears are 2-3 overall, but 0-2 in the rugged Missouri Valley Football Conference.

And making a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament will require a major turnaround.

Petrino:”You’re going to be in tough games. They’re going to make plays. We’re going to have plays. We have to have strength, stamina and focus to find a way to win the game.”

Southern Illinois comes into Plaster Stadium Saturday with a 3-2 record, but unbeaten in the conference.

The Salukis lost the first two games of the season, including the opener against Incarnate Word.

But SIU’s turned their season around and has won three straight.

“Take a lesson from them and come back. Get better and play well as the year goes on. That’s the key for us. To come back and play the type of football that we know we’re capable of playing,” said Petrino.

Seven of the 11 starters on defense are juniors or seniors and know what it takes to win.

“We have a lot of guys who have played in the past. We have to get back to play Bear football the way we know how,” said Young.