SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — After taking the Missouri State football program to its first playoff birth since 1990 in just his first year at the Bears’ helm, Head Coach Bobby Petrino has been named Missouri Valley Football Conference Coach of the Year.

After being picked to tie for 9th in the preseason poll and an 0-3 fall schedule, Petrino bounced the Bears back to a 5-1 spring conference record and a share of the MVFC title.

Petrino received 50 total points in the coach of the year voting, narrowly topping South Dakota State’s John Stiegelmeier who had 46 points.

He is the first MSU coach to win the honor since Jesse Branch won it in both 1989 and 1990. 

Petrino says the team’s success is not something he was expecting to start the year.

“Yeah, we really didn’t think about it much at all early in the season,” Petrino said. “We were trying to figure out how to get a first down on offense and how to come up with stops on defense and just go out and compete. I think the one thing that showed up was how hard we played, how competitive we were. I think the Northern Iowa game obviously was a game where maybe we started thinking, ‘Hey, this could happen. We could get into it and make a run at being co-champion.'”

The Bears also had 10 players earn individual conference honors:

MVFC First Team: DB Montrae Braswell

MVFC Second Team: OL Landon Bebee, DE Kevin Ellis, DL Eric Johnson, DB Kyriq McDonald, K Jose Pizano, LB Tylar Wiltz

MVFC Honorable Mentions: P Grant Burkett, RB Celdon Manning, WR Damoriea Vick

The group will carry those honors into the NCAA playoffs this Saturday, April 24th as they travel to North Dakota.

The Bears and Fighting Hawks will kickoff at 3 p.m. (ESPN3) from the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota.