Jackrabbits look for strong finish in Youngstown
The South Dakota State University football team will attempt to make one final push toward a possible playoff berth Saturday, when the Jackrabbits travel to Youngstown State for a matchup between nationally ranked teams.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Eastern Time (1 p.m. Central) at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, Ohio. The game is scheduled to be available via video streaming at ESPN3.com.
The Jackrabbits, whose current three-game winning streak matches a season high, enter Saturday’s contest with a 7-4 overall record and 4-3 mark in Missouri Valley Football Conference play. SDSU, which is ranked 16th in this week’s Sports Network media poll and 17th by the FCS Coaches, secured its eighth winning season in 10 years competing at the Football Championship Subdvision with a 27-12 road win Nov. 16 over in-state rival South Dakota.
Youngstown State, meanwhile, has lost its last two games to fall to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the MVFC. The Penguins dropped a 22-20 decision at Northern Iowa on Nov. 9, followed by a 35-17 home defeat at the hands of top-ranked North Dakota State last week. Youngstown State is ranked 15th by the Sports Network and 18th by the FCS Coaches this week.
FOUR-DOWN TERRITORY: Four quick notes on the Jackrabbits:
• SDSU is plus-13 in turnover margin this season to rank fourth in the FCS, forcing nine lost fumbles and intercepting 17 passes;
• In league games, the Jackrabbits are the least-penalized team in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, committing only 25 penalties for 236 yards in seven contests;
• Junior wide receiver Jason Schneider is 74 receiving yards away from becoming the first Jackrabbit in the Division I era to record 1,000 yards in a season;
• Junior running back Zach Zenner crossed the 1,500-yard mark for the season last week and also crossed the 4,000-yard mark for his career.
THE SERIES: Saturday’s game will mark the 15th meeting between South Dakota State and Youngstown State, a series that dates back to the 1942 season. The Jackrabbits hold a 9-5 series advantage after winning all four matchups since joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2008.
Following are the results from the 14 previous matchups:
1942: Youngstown State 14, South Dakota State 0 (at Brookings)
1968: South Dakota State 23, Youngstown State 20 (at Youngstown, Ohio)
1969: Youngstown State 17, South Dakota State 16 (at Brookings, S.D.)
1972: South Dakota State 34, Youngstown State 22 (at Brookings, S.D.)
1973: South Dakota State 26, Youngstown State 6 (at Youngstown, Ohio)
1974: Youngstown State 35, South Dakota State 21 (at Brookings, S.D.)
1975: South Dakota State 38, Youngstown State 21 (at Youngstown, Ohio)
1979: Youngstown State 50, South Dakota State 7 (Division II playoff game at Youngstown, Ohio)
2007: Youngstown State 23, South Dakota State 17 (at Youngstown, Ohio)
2008: South Dakota State 40, Youngstown State 7 (at Brookings, S.D.)
2009: South Dakota State 17, Youngstown State 3 (at Youngstown, Ohio)
2010: South Dakota State 30, Youngstown State 20 (at Brookings, S.D.)
2011: South Dakota State 35, Youngstown State 28 (at Youngstown, Ohio)
2012: South Dakota State 41, Youngstown State 28 (at Brookings, S.D.)
MEDIA COVERAGE: Audio 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 high-definition video streaming of select home events are available for $11.95 per month or $99.95 for a year of coverage.
Local radio coverage Saturday begins at noon 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
• KJOE 106.1 FM-Pipestone, Minn.
• KORN 1490 AM-Mitchell
• KOLY 1300 AM-Mobridge
• KGFX 1060 AM-Pierre
• KDSJ 980 AM-Deadwood
• KSDR 1480 AM-Watertown
CAPTAINS: Leading the Jackrabbit football team on the field and in the locker room are four captains:
• Brandon Hubert, Sr., wide receiver, Gretna, Neb.;
• Austin Sumner, Jr., quarterback, Brandon, S.D.;
• Winston Wright, Sr., defensive back, Lee’s Summit, Mo.;
• Zach Zenner, Jr., running back, Eagan, Minn.
The Jackrabbits broke from tradition last season by naming non-senior players as captains. Previously, all team captains were selected from the senior class. Sumner and Wright are two-year captains.
RABBITS RANKED: The South Dakota State University football team entered the 2013 season with its highest national ranking as a member of the Football Championship Subdivison by holding down the sixth spot in The Sports Network Preseason Top 25.
SDSU, coached by John Stiegelmeier, also was ranked seventh in the FCS Coaches Preseason Poll. The Jackrabbits also were ranked fourth by Lindy’s College Football, ninth by College Sporting News and 10th by Athlon College Football.
Despite losing four of their last seven games, the Jackrabbits have remained in both national polls throughout the season. This week, SDSU moved up three spots to 16th in the Sports Network media poll and two spots to 17th in the FCS Coaches’ rankings.
The Jackrabbits return 15 starters to a squad that advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs. SDSU’s previous high national ranking in either of the most-recognized polls was a ninth-place showing in 2010 preseason polls by both The Sports Network and FCS Coaches, following the Jackrabbits’ inaugural berth in the FCS playoffs in 2009.
Two-time defending national champion and Missouri Valley Football Conference rival North Dakota State held on to the top spot in both polls this week.
SCOUTING YOUNGSTOWN STATE: Youngstown State will attempt to end a two-game losing slide as it hosts South Dakota State in the regular season finale for both teams on Saturday.
Following a 55-17 setback at Michigan State on Sept. 14, the Penguins reeled off six consecutive victories to enter the stretch run with an 8-1 overall record. Youngstown State dropped back-to-back games to Northern Iowa (22-20) and North Dakota State (35-17) to enter the week 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Penguins feature the second-ranked scoring and rushing offense in the MVFC, averaging 35.6 points and 206.4 rushing yards per game. Martin Ruiz, a candidate for the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision, leads the Penguin ground game with 1,068 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and 97.1 yards per game. Jody Webb ranks second with 322 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per attempt.
Senior quarterback Kurt Hess has been a constant in the Youngstown State lineup throughout his career and enters Saturday’s game with 2,091 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has completed 63 percent (155-of-246) of his passes.
Hess has spread the wealth among his receivers, with the top five pass-catchers separated by only eight receptions. Andre Stubbs leads the Penguin contingent with 26 receptions and five touchdowns, totaling 318 yards. He also is averaging 26.7 yards per kickoff return.
Andrew Williams and Christian Bryan each have 25 receptions, with Williams tallying a team-best 396 receiving yards. Marcel Caver has added 21 receptions for 393 yards — an average of 18.7 yards per catch.
The Penguin defense is paced by Teven Williams, who has recorded a team-best 75 tackles. Julius Childs ranks second with 68 tackles and has added a pair of sacks.
Three players — Kyle Siri, Emmanuel Kromah and Vince Coleman — share the team lead with four sacks. Siri also leads YSU with 10.5 tackles for loss.
Dale Peterman leads the secondary with three interceptions and has broken up four other passes.
The Penguins also have fared well in other areas of special teams. Punter Nick Liste is averaging 44.1 yards per punt and has landed 15 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line to go along with 15 punts of at least 50 yards.
Joey Cejudo is 6-of-8 on field goal attempts, with both of his misses from 40-plus yards.
SUMNER SETS RECORDS: Jackrabbit quarterback Austin Sumner has rewritten the Jackrabbit record book in a number of career categories during the 2013 season.
A junior, Sumner has vaulted in the top spot for career passing yards with 7,283 entering play Saturday. With a 276-yard performance Oct. 5 against Southern Illinois, Sumner moved past both Ted Wahl (6,016 yards from 1985-88) and Ryan Berry (6,023 yards from 2005-08) for the all-time lead. Sumner began the season in eighth place for career passing yards and has totaled 2,283 yards — 10th on SDSU’s single-season charts — through 10 games this season. He now holds three of the top 10 single-season passing totals in program history.
Sumner’s 1,011 career pass attempts have surpassed the previous record of 834 set by Berry, and his 586 completions also have passed Berry’s previous career mark of 514. Sumner also ranks in a tie with Brad Nelson (2001-04) for second place in career touchdown passes at SDSU with 47. Berry is the all-time leader with 55.
Sumner has played in 34 career games and made 31 starts, holding a 20-11 record as the team’s top signal-caller. During his first season, he set a Missouri Valley Football Conference freshman record with 2,382 yards passing en route to being named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award as the top first-year player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Despite playing through injury in 2012, Sumner helped lead the Jackrabbits to an FCS playoff berth with 2,443 passing yards.
The Brandon native recorded his seventh career 300-yard passing game in the 2013 season opener against Butler (Ind.), ending the night 22-of-32 for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
ZENNER ON PAYTON WATCH LIST: South Dakota State University running back Zach Zenner is one of 20 players currently in the running for the 2013 Walter Payton Award for the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
A junior from Eagan, Minn., Zenner was one of 11 finalists from the 2012 season to appear on the inaugural 2013 watch list, which was announced in July. A consensus All-America selection last season, Zenner placed seventh in the balloting after joining the watch list a month into the 2012 campaign.
Zenner led the nation in rushing during the 2012 season, racking up 2,044 yards in 13 games for an average of 157.2 yards per contest. He crossed the 100-yard mark in nine games and topped 200 yards three times, including a school-record 295 yards in the opening round of the FCS playoffs Nov. 24 versus Eastern Illinois.
For the season, Zenner averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground, while adding 28 receptions for 197 yards.
Zenner again ranks among the nation’s leaders in rushing, standing in a tie for second in the Football Championship Subdivision with 1,509 total rushing yards and third with an average of 137.2 yards per game. His 18 rushing touchdowns rank fifth among FCS players and his 19 total touchdowns (1 receiving) put him in sixth place for scoring with an average of 10.4 points per game. Zenner also ranks sixth in all-purpose yards with an average of 159.7 yards per game as he has added 20 receptions for 248 yards.
He has topped the 100-yard mark in 10 of 11 games this season, including tying his own school record with 295 yards — on a career-high 37 carries — Sept. 7 at North Dakota, a rushing total that is the most in a single game by an FCS player this season. Zenner was selected as National Offensive Player of the Week by the Sports Network and earned both National Performer of the Week and National Running Back of the Week accolades from College Football Performance Awards. He also was named Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
For his career, Zenner has crossed the 100-yard barrier 19 times and topped the 200-yard mark five times, including a 21-carry, 202-yard performance Sept. 21 at Nebraska, when he was again named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week. He enters the weekend third in career rushing at South Dakota State with 4,023 yards.
Zenner, who has three rushing touchdowns of at least 40 yards this season, including a season-long 80-yarder Oct. 12 at Western Illinois, has had a penchant for long runs. His 13 rushing touchdowns in 2012 covered an average of 42.8 yards, including a school-record 99-yarder at Kansas in the season opener. So far in 2013, Zenner has averaged 19.2 yards on his 18 touchdown runs.
The Walter Payton Award will be presented by The Sports Network on Dec. 16.
LALLY LEADS LINEBACKERS: For the second year in a row, the South Dakota State University football team had a player under consideration for the Jerry Rice Award, which is presented to the top freshman player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Linebacker T.J. Lally was named one of 20 finalists for the 2012 Jerry Rice Award following a stellar season in which he ranked second on the team with 107 tackles, shared the team lead with six sacks and ranked fourth with eight tackles for loss. Lally started all 13 games at middle linebacker and registered double figures for tackles in five games, including a career-high 11 in a playoff loss at North Dakota State.
A member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team in 2012, Lally was one of three league players to be named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award. Northern Iowa quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen and Western Illinois linebacker J.J. Raffelson also were considered for the award.
Lally was credited with a season-high 10 tackles in the Sept. 14 win over Southeastern Louisiana, recording double figures in stops for the sixth time in his career. The previous week, in a road win at North Dakota, Lally was credited with five tackles. He also tipped a pass that resulted in a game-ending interception late in the fourth quarter.
KILGORE WAS HERE: Linebacker R.C. Kilgore ranks among the nation’s leaders in tackles during a strong senior season.
A native of Cottage Grove, Minn., Kilgore was credited with 10 tackles in the Sept. 14 Beef Bowl victory over Southeastern Louisiana, then registered 15 tackles Sept. 21 at Nebraska. He followed those performances with 17 tackles Sept 28. against North Dakota State. Kilgore reached double figures in tackles for the sixth time this season with 15 Oct. 26 against Northern Iowa and comes into Saturday’s game with a team-best 111 tackles. His average of 10.1 tackles per game ranks 16th among Football Championship Subdivision players.
Kilgore also holds the team lead with five takeaways this season. He recovered a pair of fumbles Sept. 21 at Nebraska and notched his fourth fumble recovery of the season Oct. 19 at Missouri State. He also recorded his first career interception Sept. 7 at North Dakota.
SYROVATKA STREAKS END: South Dakota State kicker Justin Syrovatka had his school-record streak of 15 consecutive made field goals end when he missed a 32-yard attempt in the third quarter of the Sept. 21 game at Nebraska.
A junior from Sioux Falls, Syrovatka extended his new Jackrabbit standard to 15 by tying his career long with a 48-yarder in the first quarter at Nebraska. Following his miss, Syrovatka connected on a 29-yard field goal to cap the SDSU scoring in the fourth quarter.
The previous Jackrabbit record for consecutive made field goal attempts was 13, which was set by Parker Douglass between the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Syrovatka’s streak began on Oct. 11, 2012, in a victory over Western Illinois. He made his last 12 field goal attempts of the 2012 season and first three attempts of the 2013 campaign, going 7-for-7 from 20-29 yards, 3-for-3 on field goals of 30-39 yards and 5-for-5 from 40-plus yards.
Syrovatka’s last miss prior to the Nebraska game also came on a 32-yard attempt Sept. 29, 2012, versus Missouri State. He ended the 2012 season 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) on field goals and is 34-for-49 (69.4 percent) for his career.
He also had a streak of 47 consecutively made PATs end Nov. 9 against Indiana State. His 33 consecutive PATs to start the season were a Jackrabbit record, surpassing the 29 by Douglass in 2004. For his career, Syrovatka is 93-of-95 on PATs.
SCHNEIDER STEPS UP: After graduating its top two receivers from a year ago, South Dakota State had some question as to who would be the go-to players in the passing game. Junior Jason Schneider emerged as an early candidate in the Aug. 31 season opener against Butler (Ind.), recording career highs with 10 receptions and 167 receiving yards, along with two touchdowns.
A native of Andover, Minn., Schneider’s yardage total was the most since Dale Moss racked up 178 yards in a 2011 game at Missouri State. The last Jackrabbit receiver to notch double figures for receptions in a game was Tyrel Kool with 10 in a 2010 contest at Northern Iowa.
Schneider has been the leading receiver in terms of catches in seven of the Jackrabbits’ 11 games this season, including a seven-catch, 110-yard performance Nov. 9 against Indiana State. For the year, Schneider leads the team with 64 receptions for 926 yards and nine touchdowns. He is leading the Missouri Valley Football Conference in both receptions (5.8 per game) and receiving yards (84.2 yards per game). Schneider enters play Saturday having caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games.
Schneider has moved into a tie with former teammate Tyrel Kool (2010) for fifth place in single-season receptions at SDSU and is sixth in single-season receiving yards. He is 74 yards away from becoming the first Jackrabbit receiver to record 1,000 yards in a season during the Division I era and the first to reach the milestone since current assistant coach Josh Davis compiled 1,028 yards in 2003.
HUBERT TO THE TOP 10s: Senior wide receiver Brandon Hubert moved into the Jackrabbit career top 10 for receptions last month and gained a spot in the SDSU top 10 for receiving yards Nov. 9 in the game against Indiana State.
A team captain from Gretna, Neb., Hubert enters the weekend with 132 career receptions, good for eighth place on the Jackrabbit all-time charts. Hubert also has tallied 1,705 receiving yards, putting him in 10th place all-time at SDSU. He has caught a pass in 43 of 46 career games.
Earlier this season, Hubert was named a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is awarded annually by the National Football Foundation to the top scholar-athlete in college football. Besides being a key member of the Jackrabbit football team, Hubert has excelled in the classroom, compiling a 3.70 grade-point average while majoring in pharmacy.
LIMITING MISTAKES: After being flagged for 10 penalties for 103 yards in the Aug. 31 season opener against Butler (Ind.), the Jackrabbit football team has been among the best in the Football Championship Subdivision in limiting mistakes.
In the 10 games since the opener, SDSU has committed a total of 37 penalties for 339 yards. The Jackrabbits enter the week ranked eighth among FCS programs for fewest penalties with an average of 4.3 per game, while their 40.2 penalty yards per game rank 11th. SDSU set a season low with 15 penalty yards in a double-overtime win over Northern Iowa on Oct. 26, while matching a season low with only two penalties.
In addition, SDSU stands fourth in the FCS ranks for turnover margin at plus-13 (+1.2 per game). The Jackrabbits have turned the ball over only 13 times this season, while forcing 26 takeaways. SDSU has forced at least one turnover in all 11 games so far in 2013.
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS: The Jackrabbit football team has received valuable contributions from brothers Winston and Dom Wright over the past two seasons.
Natives of Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Blue Springs South High School, both joined the SDSU football program in the fall of 2010. A senior, Winston Wright has started all 35 games at cornerback since the start of the 2011 campaign, earning second-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors in 2011. He led the team with three interceptions to go along with 57 tackles in 2011, followed by a 59-tackle, one-interception season in 2012. He began his colllegiate career at Missouri, redshirting during the 2009 season.
Dom Wright is a junior wide receiver who has seen most of his action as a kick returner. Last season, he averaged 20.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns and added a 39-yard punt return in limited action.
GOOD WORKS TEAM: South Dakota State University cornerback Winston Wright is one of 22 college football players from across the country named to the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
A senior from Lee’s Summit, Mo., Wright has organized or participated in numerous service activities, including leading two groups of SDSU students to Harmons, Jamaica, and assisting in the building of six homes.
Wright also has participated in shoe donations and sports camps on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Samaritan’s Feet, along with mentoring children and speaking at local schools and churches about making positive decisions.
Wright, who is a three-year starter and two-year captain for the Jackrabbits, is the first SDSU player to be named to the Good Works Team. A record 150 football student-athletes were nominated for this year’s squad.
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 109-80 record (.577 winning percentage). SDSU has clinched its eighth winning season in the school’s 10 seasons competing at the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level, compiling a 65-46 record since moving to the FCS ranks in 2004. Overall, the Jackrabbits have had a winning record in 13 of Stiegelmeier’s 17 years as head coach, and have a 31-16 record in Missouri Valley Football Conference games. SDSU has reached the FCS playoffs twice (2009, 2012) under Stiegelmeier’s guidance.
NEW STADIUM ON HORIZON: South Dakota State University officials announced on Oct. 5 lead gifts totaling $12.5 million from Sioux Falls banker Dana Dykhouse and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford toward the construction of a new football stadium.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the 100th Hobo Day game at SDSU.
The proposed stadium, which would have a seating capacity of 18,500 to 20,000, would replace Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which has served as the home of Jackrabbit football since 1962. The new stadium would be built on the current Coughlin-Alumni Stadium site, with completion scheduled for the summer of 2016.
In recent years SDSU has regularly drawn crowds well above the capacity of Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which has permanent seating totaling about 11,000. The stadium attendance record of 16,498 was set Sept. 28, when the Jackrabbits hosted North Dakota State.
University officials will present a facility program plan for the estimated $60 million project to the South Dakota Board of Regents in December and, pending BOR approval, will seek authority from the South Dakota Legislature in the spring. Construction would be done in phases, with the east and south sides of the stadium scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2015 and the west side finished the following year.
Plans call for the stadium to be funded through private gifts and long-term revenue streams, including concessions and suite, loge box and ticket sales. The intention is to secure bonds to finance up to two-thirds of the project’s construction with bonds, with the remaining third coming from private support.
RARE BYE WEEK: The Jackrabbits had a rare in-season bye week during their membership in the Missouri Valley Conference, taking a week off prior to their Nov. 9 game against Indiana State. Since joining the league in 2008, SDSU is 2-1 in games following a mid-season bye week. In 2008, the Jackrabbits lost a 42-28 home decision to Cal Poly. Last year, SDSU recorded a 31-10 home win over Western Illinois (Oct. 13, 2012).
WORKING OVERTIME: SDSU’s 37-34 double-overtime victory over Northern Iowa on Oct. 26 upped the Jackrabbits’ record in overtime games to 2-0 against Missouri Valley Football Conference opponents. SDSU also defeated Missouri State in a double-overtime game, 43-36, in 2011.
Overall, SDSU is 3-4 in games decided in overtime since the format was adopted in the mid-1990s. The Jackrabbits won their inaugural overtime game, 30-27 in two overtimes against Nebraska-Omaha in the 1998 Hobo Day game.
JACKRABBIT INSIDER: Throughout the 2013 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 MyUTV. The show is also broadcast on KELO-TV at 11 p.m. Central Sunday and at 10 p.m. Mountain Time Sunday on KCLO-TV. Online, the show can be viewed at GoJacks.com.
STIG SHOW: The John Stiegelmeier Radio Show airs each Monday throughout the 2013 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.
ACADEMIC AWARD: The South Dakota State football team was presented with the Missouri Valley Football Conference Team Academic Award during the Sept. 14 game against Southeastern Louisiana. The Jackrabbits, who compiled a 3.02 team grade-point average during the 2012-13 academic year, have received the MVFC Team Academic Award each of the five seasons they have competed in the conference.
A LOOK AHEAD: Should the Jackrabbits win Saturday, their playoff fate will be revealed during the FCS Playoff Selection Show on ESPNU at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The 24-team playoffs kick off Nov. 30 at campus sites.