SDSU prepares for league opener
The South Dakota State University football team opens Missouri Valley Football Conference action Saturday afternoon, traveling to nationally ranked Indiana State.
Kickoff is slated for 2:05 p.m. Eastern Time (1:05 p.m. Central) at Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Ind.
Both teams are 2-1 overall, with each team's loss to a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. After a season-opening 31-17 loss at Kansas, the Jackrabbits have rebounded with back-to-back strong defensive outings, posting a 31-14 win at Southeastern Louisiana followed by a 12-8 victory over UC Davis on Sept. 15.
Indiana State, meanwhile, opened the 2012 campaign with a 24-17 loss at Big Ten foe Indiana. The Sycamores have since rolled up nearly 900 yards of combined total offense in a 44-0 win over Quincy (Ill.) and a 27-10 victory over Drake (Iowa).
THE SERIES: Saturday's game will mark the fifth meeting between SDSU and Indiana State on the gridiron, dating back to when the Jackrabbits joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference at the start of the 2008 season. The series is tied at two games apiece; SDSU won the first two meetings, while the Sycamores have won the last two.
The teams are 1-1 in games played in Terre Haute.
Previous results include:
• Oct. 25, 2008: SDSU 49, Indiana State 9 (at Terre Haute, Ind.)
• Sept. 19, 2009: SDSU 41, Indiana State 0 (at Brookings)
• Oct. 30, 2010: Indiana State 41, SDSU 30 (at Terre Haute, Ind.)
• Oct. 1, 2011: Indiana State 38, SDSU 28 (at Brookings)
ONLINE COVERAGE: Audio and video coverage of Saturday's game is scheduled to be available via the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com, the official website of SDSU athletics. Monthly subscriptions for the Jackrabbit Extra, which includes live audio and video streaming are available for $11.95 per month or $99.95 for an entire year of
Local radio coverage Saturday begins at noon Central Time on the Jackrabbit Sports Network. Tyler Merriam will call the play-by-play, with former Jackrabbit player Mike Struck providing color commentary and Scotty Kwas providing sideline updates. Yankton-based WNAX 570 AM will again serve as the flagship station of the Jackrabbit Sports Network, which includes the following affiliates:
• KJJQ 910 AM-Brookings
• KBFS 1450 AM-Belle Fourche
• KMSD 1510 AM-Milbank
• KORN 1490 AM-Mitchell
• KOLY 1300 AM-Mobridge
• KGFX 1060 AM-Pierre
• KSDR 1480 AM-Watertown
RUNNING BACK BATTLE: Saturday's game will feature the top two running backs thus far this season in the Football Championship Subdivision.
South Dakota State's Zach Zenner enters the week as the nation's leading rusher wtih 658 yards - 219.3 yards per game - in three games. He has gained at least 183 yards in every game this season, with a career-high 278 yards at Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8. Zenner is averaging 8.4 yards per carry.
Indiana State's Shakir Bell ranks second in the FCS ranks with 610 yards - 203.3 yards per game - in three contests. Bell gained a Missouri Valley Football Conference-record 349 yards on 33 carries last week against Drake (Iowa). A 2011 finalist for the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision, Bell enters Saturday's game 71 yards away from reaching the 3,000-yard mark for his career.
Sept. 1 at Kansas: 23-183, 1 TD
Sept. 8 at Southeastern Louisiana: 34-278, 1 TD
Sept. 15 vs. UC Davis: 21-197, 2TD
Totals: 78-658, 4 TD (8.4 ypc)
Sept. 1 at Indiana: 24-192, 1 TD
Sept. 8 vs. Quincy: 19-69, 1 TD
Sept. 15 vs. Drake: 33-349, 2 TD
Totals: 76-610, 4 TD (8.0 ypc)
WINNING STREAKS: South Dakota State will attempt to extend winning streaks against Football Championship Subdivision and Missouri Valley Football Conference opponents on Saturday.
The Jackrabbits have won five consecutive games against FCS opponents, dating back to the 2011 season. SDSU's last loss to an FCS opponent came on Oct. 22, 2011, to North Dakota State.
SDSU also has a pair of three-game winning streaks against MVFC foes. The Jackrabbits ended 2011 by winning their final three conference games, starting with a double-overtime victory at Missouri State on Oct. 29, 2011. SDSU also has won its last three league road games, starting with a 35-28 win at Youngstown State (Ohio) on Oct. 29, 2011, and ending with a 27-7 win at Western Illinois on Nov. 12, 2011.
VERSUS RANKED OPPONENTS: Playing a ranked opponent is nothing new for the Jackrabbit football team, which has taken on some of the nation's elite Football Championship Subdivision programs since moving up from Division I at the start of the 2004 season.
In its first six-plus seasons at the FCS level, SDSU has played 37 games against ranked FCS opponents and compiled an 11-26 overall record.
The Jackrabbits' last win over a ranked opponent was a 31-10 victory at Southern Illinois in 2010.
CAPTAINS: Leading the Jackrabbit football team on the field and in the locker room are five captains:
• Seth Daughters, Sr., tight end, Winner, S.D.;
• Bo Helm, Sr., defensive back, Childress, Texas;
• Ross Shafrath, Sr., linebacker, Hampton, Iowa;
• Austin Sumner, So., quarterback, Brandon, S.D.;
• Winston Wright, Jr., defensive back, Lee's Summit, Mo.
The Jackrabbits broke from tradition this season by naming two non-senior players - Sumner and Wright - as captains. Previously, all team captains were selected from the senior class.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: South Dakota State linebacker T.J. Lally was named Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week and punter Ethan Sawyer earned
special teams honors following their performances in the Jackrabbits' 12-8 victory over UC Davis on Sept. 15.
In his first home start, Lally paced a Jackrabbit defense that did not allow an offensive touchdown with 10 tackles (all solo), including four sacks. The redshirt freshman from Chicago also recovered a fumble on the Aggies' final offensive play to preserve the victory. His four sacks were the most by a Jackrabbit player in the Division I era and the most sacks in a game since Jeff Wolgamott tallied four against Morningside (Iowa) in the 1997 season finale. SDSU did not allow UC Davis past the Jackrabbit 25-yard line for the entire game.
Lally was also honored as the Sports Network National Freshman of the Week and the national defensive performer and national linebacker of the week by College Football Performance Awards.
Sawyer helped the Jackrabbits win the battle of field position, punting seven times for an average of 47.9 yards in breezy conditions at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. A sophomore from Brandon, Sawyer booted a career-long 72-yarder in the contest and prevented UC Davis from recording any punt returns on the afternoon, landing one punt inside the 20-yard line with two touchbacks. For the season, he is averaging 44.1 yards per punt.
It marked the second week in a row that two Jackrabbits were honored as players of the week. Running back Zach Zenner was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week and Will Castle received MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week recognition for their efforts in the Sept. 8 win at Southeastern Louisiana.
SCOUTING INDIANA STATE: The Indiana State football team will attempt to take the next step in its rebuilding process under fifth-year head coach Trent Miles.
After winning only one game between the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the Sycamores took a step forward in 2010 with a 6-5 season, including a 4-4 mark in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. ISU appeared on the verge of bettering that mark last season before dropping three of its final four games to again finish at 6-5 and 4-4.
Leading the Sycamores this season is junior running back Shakir Bell, who has rushed for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Bell set an MVFC single-game record with 349 yards last week against Drake (Iowa).
Bell runs behind an offensive line that is anchored by a pair of seniors - center Evan Borchers and right tackle Casey Paswater.
First-year starter Mike Perish has completed 61.7 percent (37-of-60) of his passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns. Donald Spencer leads the receivers with 11 catches for 102 yards, while Michael Mardis has tallied 10 receptions for 143 yards.
The Sycamore defense is led by Buck Buchanan Award nominee Ben Obaseki, who has tallied 11 tackles so far this season after racking up 69 tackles and nine sacks a year ago from his defensive end position.
An active linebacking corps features the squad's top two tacklers. Aaron Archie has six tackles for loss among his team-best 37 stops, while Jacolby Washington is right behind with 36 tackles.
Kicker Tanner Fritschle is off to a solid start as he has connected on 6-of-7 field goal attempts and all 10 point-after attempts for a team-high 28 points.
SUMNER AT THE HELM: South Dakota State University quarterback Austin Sumner will attempt to build off an impressive freshman season a year ago.
Although not expected to play in the Sept. 1 season opener at Kansas due to an injury suffered in practice the previous week, Sumner entered the game in the third quarter and led the Jackrabbits on two scoring drives, including throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Tyrel Kool early in the fourth quarter. Sumner finished the game 14-of-31 passing for 175 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted four times. He followed with a two-touchdown performance at Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8.
A native of Brandon, S.D., Sumner started the final eight games of the 2011 season, leading the Jackrabbits to a 4-4 record and setting the Missouri Valley Football Conference freshman record with 2,382 yards passing. Sumner, who finished third in the voting for the inaugural Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision, also tied a Jackrabbit single-game record with 37 completions versus nationally ranked Northern Iowa on Oct. 15, 2011.
Sumner topped the 300-yard mark five times in 2011, including throwing for a career-best 377 yards in a double-overtime win over Missouri State.
DUAL THREAT: South Dakota State's Tyrel Kool has shifted all around the field during his Jackrabbit career and will see action both in the backfield and at wide receiver in 2012.
A senior from Yankton, Kool began his collegiate career as a running back and kick returner, but switched to wide receiver during the 2010 season, when he led the team with 64 receptions for 808 yards. His receptions total is fifth-most in a season by a Jackrabbit player, while his receiving yards mark stood 10th in a single season as he earned honorable mention all-Missouri Valley Football Conference recognition.
In 2011, Kool moved back to running back and led the team with 534 yards rushing. He made the most of his first career start at running back, racking up 107 yards on the ground and another 79 through the air in the Jackrabbits' 2011 season opener against Southern Utah.
Kool started at wide receiver in the Sept 1 season opener at Kansas and recorded a team-high eight receptions for 76 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. He stands at 102 career receptions entering Saturday's game.
Additionally, Kool saw time at defensive back late in the 2009. He recorded 10 total tackles, including three in the Jackrabbits' playoff game at Montana.
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING: Running back Zach Zenner put together a series of impressive all-around performances last season and is off to a record-setting start in 2012.
Zenner set career highs with 23 carries and 183 rushing yards in the Jackrabbits' season-opening loss at Kansas on Sept. 1. He opened the scoring with a 99-yard touchdown run - the longest offensive play from scrimmage in program history, surpassing Mike Lunde's 95-yard run against North Dakota in 1976. Zenner also caught four passes for 27 yards, giving him 210 all-purpose yards in the contest.
He followed that performance by again establishing career highs with 34 carries for 278 yards at Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8. Zenner scored on a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter at Southeastern Louisiana, then added a pair of touchdowns - including the game-winning 23-yard score - en route to 197 yards Sept. 15 versus UC Davis as he crossed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career.
A sophomore from Eagan, Minn., Zenner compiled 139 all-purpose yards in the 2011 season-opening Jackrabbit victory against Southern Utah. He returned four kickoffs for 74 yards, caught three passes for 24 yards and carried the ball five times for 41 yards. He scored the first touchdown of his career, scampering 27 yards around left end on the final play of the third quarter.
Zenner ranked third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2011 with an average of 123.1 all-purpose yards per game, earning him a spot on the league's all-newcomer team. He made his first career start Oct. 29 at Missouri State.
ROLLIN RETURNS: Senior wide receiver Aaron Rollin is set to rejoin the Jackrabbit lineup this weekend after being injured in the Sept. 8 game at Southeastern Louisiana.
A native of Lee's Summit, Mo., Rollin is poised to enter the Jackrabbit career top 10 in a pair of receiving categories during the 2012 season. He recorded 96 receptions for 1,311 yards in his first three seasons with the Jackrabbits, but has been held to one reception for 21 yards thus far in 2012. He stands 19 catches away from cracking the SDSU careeer top 10 and 326 receiving yards shy of top-10 status.
Rollin put together a breaktrhough 2011 campaign, leading the team with seven touchdowns while sharing the team lead with 61 receptions. He teamed with Dale Moss to give SDSU one of the top receiving tandems in the nation as both receivers topped the 900-yard mark.
Rollin was held without a catch in the 2012 season opener at Kansas, ending his streak of consecutive games with a reception at 21, dating back to the 2009 season.
SHAFRATH STICKING OPPONENTS: Senior linebacker Ross Shafrath has led the team in tackles each of the first three games of the season for a team-best total of 34.
Shafrath opened 2012 with a career-high 16 tackles Sept. 1 at Kansas. His total was the most by a Jackrabbit player since linebacker Mike Lien notched 18 tackles in a 2010 game at North Dakota State. He then notched eight stops in the Sept. 8 win over Southeastern Louisiana and shared team-high honors with 10 stops versus UC Davis on Sept. 15.
A senior from Hampton, Iowa, Shafrath ranked fourth on the team in 2011 with 66 tackles despite being a part-time starter. His previous career high was 13 tackles at Missouri State on Oct. 29, 2011. Shafrath has tallied double digits in tackles in four of the last five games dating back to last season.
STOUT DEFENSE: The Jackrabbit defense has put together back-to-back strong
outings against Football Championship Subdivision opponents, allowing only one offensive touchdown in the past two games.
In wins over Southeastern Louisiana and UC Davis, the Jackrabbits gave up a
combined 416 yards of total offense, including a meager 43 on the ground. FCS opponents are averaging 0.9 yards per carry in the last two games.
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS: The Jackrabbit football team received valuable contributions from brothers Winston and Dom Wright during the 2011 season.
Natives of Lee's Summit, Mo., and Blue Springs South High School, both joined the SDSU football program in the fall of 2010. A junior, Winston Wright started all 11 games at cornerback last season en route to earning second-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors. He led the team with three interceptions to go along with 57 tackles. He began his colllegiate career at Missouri, redshirting during the 2009 season.
Dom Wright is a sophomore wide receiver who saw most of his action as a kick and punt returner. In nine games last season, he averaged 15.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns to rank second on the squad. This season, he has returned seven punts for 48 yards (6.9 yards per return), including a career-long 39-yard return Sept. 8 at Southeastern Louisiana.
HELM NOMINATED FOR GOOD WORKS TEAM: South Dakota State University senior Bo Helm is one of 117 college football players to be nominated for the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The award, which is presented in conjunction with the American Football Coaches Association, recognizes the selfless contributions to volunteerism and community service made by college football student-athletes across the nation.
A native of Childress, Texas, Helm has been involved in a number of community service activities during his Jackrabbit career. He has served as a tutor, been a mentor for the Flandreau Indian School Success Academy, volunteered for a number of youth camps and clinics and has played an active role in organizing drives for the Brookings Food Pantry and Feed My Starving Children. Helm also has devoted countless hours to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and recently completed a mission trip to Jamaica.
From the nominees submitted by sports information directors across the nation on behalf of their schools, a special voting panel consisting of former Good Works Team
members and prominent college football media members will select two 11-player Good Works Teams - one comprised of players from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and another representing players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III and the NAIA. The 22 student-athletes named to the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team will be announced in late September.
COACH STIG: John Stiegelmeier has built the South Dakota State University football team into a consistent winner in the ranks of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Overall, Coach Stig has led the Jackrabbits to a 95-73 record (.565 winning percentage). SDSU has posted eight winning seasons in the last 10 years, including six of the school's first eight campaigns at the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level. The Jackrabbits have had a winning record in 11 of Stiegelmeier's 15 years as head coach, and have a 21-11 record in Missouri Valley Football Conference games.
WORKING OVERTIME: SDSU's 43-36 double-overtime victory at Missouri State last season ended a four-game losing streak in overtime games for the Jackrabbits.
Overall, SDSU is 2-4 in overtime games, with both home contests played on Hobo Day. The Jackrabbits won their inaugural overtime game, 30-27 in two overtimes against Nebraska-Omaha in the 1998 Hobo Day game, then dropped a 46-44, triple-overtime decision to McNeese State (La.) in the 2008 Hobo Day game.
Following is a complete list of SDSU's overtime games:
1998: SDSU 30, Nebraska-Omaha 27 (2 OT - at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium)
2002: Augustana 39, SDSU 33 (3 OT - at Sioux Falls)
2004: Southern Utah 23, SDSU 17 (2 OT - at Cedar City, Utah)
2007: Western Illinois 29, SDSU 26 (4 OT - at Macomb, Ill.)
2008: McNeese State 46, SDSU 44 (3 OT - at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium)
2011: SDSU 43, Missouri State 36 (2 OT - at Springfield, Mo.)
JACKRABBIT INSIDER: Throughout the 2012 football season, head coach John Stiegelmeier will be a guest on the "Jackrabbit Insider," a weekly behind-the-scenes look at South Dakota State University athletics.
The half-hour television show which features interviews with Jackrabbit coaches and student-athletes, airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on Sioux Falls-based KTTW FOX 7. The show is also broadcast on FOX Sports North at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and on FOX College Sports Central at select times (check listings). Online, the show can be viewed at GoJacks.com.
STIG SHOW: The John Stiegelmeier Radio Show airs each Monday throughout the 2012 football season.
The show is scheduled to air at 5 p.m. on the Jackrabbit Sports Network, originating with flagship station WNAX 570 AM in Yankton. In addition, the weekly show also will be streamed online at GoJacks.com as part of the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service.
Hosted by Tyler Merriam, the John Stiegelmeier Radio Show will also feature interviews with Jackrabbit student-athletes and assistant coaches. Jackrabbit fans are encouraged to attend the show in person at Cubby's Sports Bar and Grill, 307 Main Ave., in downtown Brookings.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits are scheduled to open the home portion of their Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule by hosting Missouri State in the 46th Annual Beef Bowl on Sept. 29.
Kickoff is slated for 6:05 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.