SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Thursday is the new Saturday.

“(Sunday) was a Tuesday, (Monday) is a Wednesday practice. It’s kind of how you relate to the week,” Bears head coach Bobby Petrino said.

That’s the case for the Missouri State Bears as their first two games of the season are on Thursdays. It starts this week with Central Arkansas.

“UCA is a very good football team. we have had some good battles with them,” Petrino said. “We know a lot about each other so it should be a really good game.”

It will be the fourth time these two have played each other in under two years.

The most recent meeting saw both teams score 20 fourth quarter points. Jason Shelley found Xavier Lane with 29 seconds left in what would be the game winning touchdown.

“I kind of walk into every game confident and feeling like if the ball is in my hands last that we are in good shape,” Shelley said. “I’d much rather not get into a fighting match like that, but if it came down to it I trust my guys and trust my skillsets and my work ethic and preparation for it. I go in full head of steam and confidence.”

The last time they went to Conway, it wasn’t the same result. Seeing a 17-7 halftime lead end with a 27-20 defeat.

“Well we have gone back and looked at it,” Petrino said. “I kind of got sick. We weren’t very good and we kind of just gave it away with a bunch of mistakes so it’s hard to watch. It’s good that it’s so far behind us now.”

The Bears open the season as the fifth ranked team in the STATS FCS poll, the highest in school history.

“Usually, back in the day, you would walk out in a Missouri State shirt on and nobody would recognize you or pay you any mind,” Bears defensive end Kevin Ellis said. “Now you walk out in a Missouri State shirt and people want to stop and talk to you and tell you they will be at the game. That’s a very good thing, very positive thing for the community.”

And say they are ready to meet some lofty expectations.

“Us all having a year under our belt and coming back,” Shelley said. “There will be a lot more chemistry. I think that is going to play a big part in us coming out and playing fast.”

“You know if we don’t take care of business here the next game becomes a lot more important,” Petrino said. “We just have to go one game at a time. It’s what you have to do when the season starts.”

Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm on Thursday.