South Dakota State Preview: #11 Jackrabbits Host South Dakota
When the calendar hits November, the South Dakota State football team has a habit of getting down to business.
Over the past five seasons, which have included four straight FCS Playoff runs, the Jackrabbits are 11-3 in regular season games played in November, an even more impressive 6-0 at home.
It seems like the success of each and every one of those seasons hung in the balance going into the final month of the season, making a number of those 11 victories 'must wins'.
2016 is no different, but this time there's an additional prize to play for - a Missouri Valley Conference championship - something that has eluded SDSU in their first eight years in the league.
Two games stand in the way of that goal for the Jackrabbits - at home Saturday with South Dakota, and on the road next week at Northern Iowa.
In the South Dakota Showdown Series game, SDSU will be looking to extend two winning streaks - five straight victories against USD in the Division I era, seven straight overall dating back to the Division II days.
The Jackrabbits (6-3/5-1) have been particularly dominant at home since this series resumed in 2012. SDSU has won both games with USD in Brookings by 23 points, without allowing a single Coyote score in the first three quarters of either game.
The Jacks come in with one of the top passing offenses in the nation - number six overall - averaging 328 yards a game. SDSU leads the Missouri Valley in scoring, total offense, passing, first downs, and third down conversions.
Quarterback Taryn Christion ranks in the Top Ten in the nation in seven different categories. Dallas Goedert is the top tight end in the FCS and Jake Wieneke is second all-time in the nation in receiving yards, the career leader in the MVFC. This season, Wieneke is tops in FCS with 14 touchdown catches.
The SDSU offensive line has been healthy much of the year and is protecting Christion and opening holes for running back Brady Mengarelli, who leads the conference in all-purpose yards.
The Coyotes (4-5/3-3) could very easily be vying for a conference title if things had gone just a little differently this season. Seven USD games have been decided in the
final 80 seconds, five of those on the last play.
The USD defense is last in the league in points allowed and total defense, ninth on opponents third down conversions.
Injuries have been a problem this season. Linebacker John Wessell, one of the team's leading tacklers last season, is out for the rest of the year. Five other starters were limited in practice this week with injuries.
Lineman Taylor Lambert has the second most tackles for loss this season in the MVFC, linebacker Jet Moreland is a top five tackler, Jacob Warner has the third most interceptions, and Andrew Gary has the third most forced fumbles.
The South Dakota offense is led by University of Minnesota transfer Chris Streveler. The junior is the top running quarterback in the Missouri Valley, with five 100-yard rushing games this season. He's third in the league in total 0ffense, sixth in passing.
Streveler's problem has been early turnovers. five of his eight interceptions this season have come in the first quarter. Overall, eight of USD's 17 giveaways have come in the first 15 minutes of games.
Running back Trevor Bouma is healthy after missing 10 games the last two seasons. He's fifth in the conference in rushing.
Wide receiver Alonge Brooks is coming off a career day - six catches, 110 yards, and two touchdowns last week against Southern Illinois. Riley Donovan, Tacari Carpenter, and Brand Van Roekel have also had 100-yard receiving games for the Coyotes this season.
They'll be going against a SDSU defense that ranks in the middle of the MVC pack in most categories, but is dead last in opponents third down conversions. The Jacks are led by redshirt freshman, linebacker Christian Rozeboom, who leads the team in tackles, notching double digits in stops in four different games. Linebacker Jesse Bobbit is fifth in the league in tackles. The defensive line is anchored by two South Dakota natives, Cole Langer of Dell Rapids and Kellen Soulek of Yankton.
Kickoff is 2:00 PM, Saturday, in Brookings.
Last week, the Jackrabbits bounced back from their first conference loss of the season with a 49-24 win at home over Missouri State.
SDSU jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but saw the Bears answer quickly, scoring on a pair of plays that covered 129 yards. The Jacks did go into the locker room with a 21-17 lead at halftime.
The second half was perhaps the best 30 minutes of football played by SDSU all year. Three different Jackrabbit running backs found the end zone in quarters three and four, all part of the second 200+ yard rushing day for the offense this season.
Defensively, SDSU limited MSU to just one score on 116 total yards, forcing four punts and two turnovers. The Jackrabbit special teams also stopped a fake punt.
I talked with SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier about the win over the Bears and Saturday's game with South Dakota: