Jacks host Bison for Dakota Marker
South Dakota State and North Dakota State kick off the Missouri Valley Football Conference portions of their schedule Saturday afternoon in a battle of top-10 nationally ranked opponents.
Kickoff for the annual Battle for the Dakota Marker is set for 2:05 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium on the SDSU campus. Reserved seating is sold out, but standing-room tickets remain available. Stadium gates open at 12:30 p.m.
Two-time defending national champion North Dakota State remains at the top of the Football Championship Subdivision polls, entering today with a 3-0 record. Following a thrilling 24-21 victory over Kansas State to open the season, the Bison trampled the competition to the tune of a combined 107-10 over their last two games.
The Jackrabbits, meanwhile, remained sixth in both the Sports Network media and FCS Coaches poll despite dropping their first game of the season Sept. 21 at Nebraska. SDSU is 3-1 overall.
Saturday’s game between the Jackrabbits and Bison is one of three matchups within the Football Championship Subdivision that will be played between teams ranked in the top 10. In other action, No. 2/3 Eastern Washington travels to No. 4/4 Sam Houston State (Texas) and fellow MVFC member Northern Iowa, ranked fifth in both major polls, hosts No. 9/9 McNeese State (La.).
FOUR-DOWN TERRITORY: Four quick notes on the Jackrabbits:
• The Jackrabbits have won nine consecutive home games, with their last loss at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium coming against North Dakota State, 38-14, on Oct. 22, 2011;
• SDSU is plus-10 in turnover margin this season, forcing five lost fumbles and intercepting nine passes. The Jackrabbits had not turned the ball over offensivley until committing three miscues last week at Nebraska;
• The Jackrabbits’ nine interceptions have come from eight different players;
• Junior quarterback Austin Sumner enters Saturday’s game 291 yards away from setting the Jackrabbit career passing record currently held by Ryan Berry (2005-08) with 6,023 yards.
THE SERIES: Saturday’s game will mark the 101st matchup on the gridiron between South Dakota State and North Dakota State, a series that dates back to an 85-0 Bison win in Fargo in 1903. NDSU leads the overall series by a 55-40-5 count.
The two schools were both charter members of the North Central Conference, meeting every year from 1919 through 1942 until play was interrupted by World War II. The series resumed in 1946 and the two squads have met every year since as the schools made the move to Division I competition together in 2004.
North Dakota State won both meetings during the 2012 season, both of which were played at the Fargodome. The Bison clinched the Missouri Valley Football Conference title with a 20-17 victory on Nov. 10, then defeated the Jackrabbits three weeks later, 28-3, in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
ANOTHER HISTORY LESSON: The last time North Dakota State entered Coughlin-Alumni Stadium as the top-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision, the Jackrabbits pulled off the upset on their home field.
In a game that decided the Great West Football Conference title, SDSU built a 20-3 first-half lead and withstood a Bison rally to come away with a 29-24 victory on Nov. 17, 2007, before a record crowd of 16,345 — a stadium attendance record that still stands.
Cory Koenig’s 42-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score. An interception by Brock Gentile in the closing minutes sealed the victory.
Special teams also played a key role as SDSU blocked a punt to set up a first-quarter touchdown and Paul Aanonson scored on a 94-yard punt return later in the first half.
The Jackrabbit victory also spoiled a bid for a perfect season by North Dakota State, which entered the contest 10-0 and ranked first in the FCS Coaches Poll.
MEDIA COVERAGE: Audio and 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 are available for $11.95 per month or $99.95 for a year of coverage.
Local radio coverage Saturday begins at 1 p.m. 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 their loss last week at Nebraksa, the Jackrabbits remain sixth in both the Sports Network media poll, as well as this week’s FCS Coaches poll.
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.
VALLEY PREVIEW: South Dakota State has been picked to finish second in the 2013 Missouri Valley Football Conference race, according to a preseason poll conducted by league coaches, media and sports information directors that was released in late July.
The Jackrabbits, who placed second in the league last season with a 6-2 record en route to a 9-4 overall mark and berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, tallied 323 points in the poll. Defending league champion and two-time defending national champion North Dakota State was a unanimous first-place selection, garnering all 39 first-place votes for 390 points. Northern Iowa (269), Illinois State (264) and Youngstown State (253) rounded out the upper half of the 10-team league.
Completing the poll were Indiana State (197), Southern Illinois (188), Missouri State (123), Western Illinois (77) and South Dakota (61).
Although the voters all agreed that NDSU is their top choice, there was a wide variance for the league's other nine teams, as seven teams were picked to finish in five or more different positions.
A pre-season favorite has claimed the league crown 15 times (in 27 previous polls). North Dakota State was picked to win the league last season.
In addition, four Jackrabbit players were named to the MVFC Preseason Team.
Headlining South Dakota State's four selections to the preseason all-league team were returning first-team honorees Bryan Witzmann and Zach Zenner. A senior offensive tackle, Witzmann has started all 35 of the Jackrabbits’ games over the last three seasons. Zenner, meanwhile, set a league single-season record for rushing yards during the 2012 season, totaling an FCS-best 2,044 yards in 13 games.
Joining Witzmann and Zenner on the preseason team were defensive end Doug Peete and linebacker T.J. Lally, who both were second-team all-MVFC selections a year ago. Peete led the squad with 13.5 tackles for loss and shared the team lead with six sacks a season ago. Lally put together a strong redshirt freshman season in 2012, ranking second on the team with 107 tackles and also sharing the team lead with six sacks.
North Dakota State led with 10 selection to the MVFC Preseason Team, including returning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Williams. Northern Iowa was second with six honorees, followed by SDSU and Illinois State.
ZENNER HONORED: For the second time this season, South Dakota State University running back Zach Zenner has been honored as Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
A junior from Eagan, Minn., Zenner gained 202 yards on 21 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns in a losing effort Sept. 21 at Nebraska. Zenner, who did not play in the fourth quarter, put the Jackrabbits on the board with a 40-yard touchdown run on the Jackrabbits’ opening drive and added a 3-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter. He also caught one pass for 21 yards.
He also was honored as National Running Back of the Week by College Football Performance Awards.
The leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision with 742 yards through four games, Zenner posted his 13th career 100-yard game and topped the 200-yard mark for the fifth time. He has scored at least two rushing touchdowns in all four games this season.
Zenner also was honored as MVFC Offensive Player of the Week after his Sept. 7 performance at North Dakota, when he tied his own school record with 295 rushing yards.
SCOUTING NORTH DAKOTA STATE: A veteran-laden North Dakota State football team is in search of its third consecutive national title during the 2013 season.
The Bison enter today’s game having won 31 of their last 33 games dating back to the start of the 2011 campaign. NDSU posted back-to-back 14-1 seasons en route to national titles in 2011 and 2012 and is off to a 3-0 start this season.
North Dakota State employs a balanced offensive attack spearheaded by quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Brock Jensen. A four-year starter, Jensen has completed 72.6 percent (53-of-73) of his passes for 562 yards and seven touchdowns. The Bison have spread the wealth as 18 different players have caught at least one pass.
Jensen’s primary target so far this season has been fellow senior Ryan Smith, who has caught 19 balls for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Vraa has added 13 catches for a a team-best 191 yards with two touchdowns.
The Bison running game features perhaps the top rushing tandem in the Football Championship Subdivision in senior Sam Ojuri and junior John Crockett, both of whom topped the 1,000-yard plateau last season. Ojuri again leads the squad this season with 207 yards, while Crockett is posting similar numbers in a reserve role with 179 yards.
The youngest group on the team is the offensive line, whose starting unit is made up of two seniors and three seniors. All-America left tackle Billy Turner, a senior, anchors the offensive line.
The Bison offense has put its last two opponents away early; NDSU has outscored its foes by a 48-0 margin in the first quarter thus far in 2013. The Bison also have not surrendered a point in the fourth quarter this season.
Another key to NDSU’s success on offense has been its ability to convert on third down; the Bison have made good on 67 percent (28-of-42) of their third-down tries.
Defensively, the Bison return the reigning Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year in cornerback Marcus Williams. A senior, Williams has recorded two interceptions — one which he returned 33 yards for a touchdown — and has added three pass breakups and seven tackles.
Williams also is a big-play threat as a kick returner, averaging 27.3 yards on three returns thus far this season.
The front four of the Bison defense features seniors Leevon Perry and Ryan Drevlow on the interior, along with senior Cole Jirik and junior Kyle Emanuel at the ends. Emanuel is the team leader with three sacks and three tackles for loss.
Senior linebacker Grant Olson has been the leader of the Bison defense so far, notching a team-best 27 tackles, including two sacks. Olson also has intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
Beside Williams returning kicks, the Bison have been solid in other areas of special teams. Junior kicker Adam Keller was an all-conference performer last season and sophomore punter Ben LeCompte is averaging 40.7 yards per attempt, while landing four of his six punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
SUMNER NEARS RECORD: Jackrabbit quarterback Austin Sumner is poised to take over the top spot in career passing this season, and could eclipse the mark this weekend.
A junior from Brandon, Sumner has moved from eighth place to third place so far this season, tallying 908 passing yards through four games to up his career total to 5,733. He stands 283 yards away from matching Ted Wahl’s second-place total of 6,016 yards from 1985-88 and 290 yards from tying Ryan Berry (6,023 yards from 2005-08) for the all-time lead.
Sumner has played in 27 career games and made 24 starts, holding a 16-8 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.
Sumner 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.
With 456 completions heading into Saturday’s game, Sumner also is nearing Berry’s career mark of 514.
ZENNER ON PAYTON WATCH LIST: South Dakota State University running back Zach Zenner is one of 20 players named to the initial 2013 Walter Payton Award Watch List for the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
A junior from Eagan, Minn., Zenner is one of 11 finalists from the 2012 season to appear on the official 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 leads the nation in rushing with 742 total yards, and his average of 185.5 yards per game ranks first. He has topped the 100-yard mark in all four games this season, including tying his own school record with 295 yards — on a career-high 37 carries — Sept. 7 at North Dakota. 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.
Zenner also has totaled 11 touchdowns (10 rushing, 1 receiving) to share the FCS lead. He has scored at least two rushing touchdowns in all four games so far this season.
For his career, Zenner has crossed the 100-yard barrier 13 times and topped the 200-yard mark five times, including a 21-carry, 202-yard performance last week at Nebraska. He enters the weekend fifth in career rushing at South Dakota State with 3,256 yards.
Zenner, who scored on a 75-yard run Sept. 14 against Southeastern Louisiana and tallied a 40-yard touchdown last week at Nebraska, 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 22.1 yards on his 10 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: Senior linebacker R.C. Kilgore has set a new career high for tackles in back-to-back weeks.
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 last week at Nebraska.
Kilgore has accounted for a team-best three takeaways this season, recovering a pair of fumbles at Nebraska and recording his first career interception Sept. 7 at North Dakota.
SYROVATKA STREAK ENDS: 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.
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 last week 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 28-for-37 (75.7 percent) for his career. He also is 73-of-74 on career PATs and is working on a streak of 32 consecutive made.
The previous Jackrabbit record for consecutive made field goal attempts was 13, which was set by Parker Douglass between the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
SCHNEIDER STEPS UP: After graduating its top two wide 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 again led Jackrabbit receivers in both the Sept. 7 and 14 games at North Dakota and versus Southeastern Louisiana with four catches in each respective contest. For the season, Schneider leads the team with 23 receptions for 340 yards and three TDs.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Three true freshman made their collegiate debuts for the Jackrabbits in the Aug. 31 season opener against Butler. Linebacker Jesse Bobbit made three tackles, while defensive lineman Cole Langer was credited with one tackle. Long snapper Thayer Trenhaile also saw action versus Butler.
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 28 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.
The 22-player team is made up of 11 players from the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, with the other 11 players from Football Championship Subdivision, NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA institutions.
Fans will have the opportunity to vote for the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Captain through ESPN.com. All award recipients will be invited to New Orleans to take part in a community project leading up to the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
COACH TO CURE MD: The South Dakota State University coaching staff will join coaches nationwide Saturday in raising funds and awareness to battle Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) members will wear a Coach To Cure MD logo patch on the sidelines and college football fans will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. focused entirely on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Football fans can donate to Duchenne muscular dystrophy research by either going online to www.CoachtoCureMD.org or by texting the word CURE to 90999 (a $5 donation will automatically be added to your next phone bill).
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 105-77 record (.577 winning percentage). SDSU has posted seven winning seasons in the school’s nine full seasons at the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level, compiling a 61-43 record since moving to the FCS ranks in 2004. Overall, the Jackrabbits have had a winning record in 12 of Stiegelmeier’s 16 full years as head coach, and have a 27-13 record in Missouri Valley Football Conference games. SDSU has reached the FCS playoffs twice (2009, 2012) under Stiegelmeier’s guidance.
WORKING OVERTIME: SDSU’s 43-36 double-overtime victory at Missouri State during the 2011 season ended a four-game losing streak in overtime games.
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 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 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 KDLO-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: The Jackrabbits continue play at home, hosting Southern Illinois in the 100th Hobo Day game on Oct. 5.
Kickoff against the Salukis is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. The Hobo Day parade begins at 9:30 a.m. near the Coughlin Campanile on Medary Avenue.