Jackrabbits open season at Mizzou
The South Dakota State University football team kicks off the 2014 season Saturday afternoon by traveling to Missouri for the Jackrabbits’ lone game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this year.
Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. at Farout Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. The game is scheduled to be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Radio coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. along the Jackrabbit Sports Network, including flagship station WNAX 570 AM.
Both teams are ranked in their respective preseason national polls. The Jacrkabbits have been tabbed 10th in both the Sports Network media poll and Football Championship Subdivison Coaches Poll.
South Dakota State is coming off a 2013 season in which it made its second straight appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and third in five years. SDSU tied a school record for wins in a season en route to a 9-5 overall record and tied for a second-place finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a 5-3 mark.
Missouri, meanwhile, is ranked 24th in the preseason Associated Press poll. The Tigers are the top team receiving votes in the USA Today coaches’ poll. Missouri compiled a 12-2 overall record during the 2013 season, including a 7-1 mark in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division to advance to the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers ended their season with a 41-31 victory over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.
FOR OPENERS: During the John Stiegelemeier era, the Jackrabbits have compiled an 11-6 record in season openers. SDSU won its first seven season-opening games under Coach Stig when competing at the NCAA Division II level, but has gone 4-6 in season openers since moving to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision in 2004.
Saturday’s game at Missouri will mark the third time South Dakota State has opened the season against an FBS opponent. The Jackrabbits dropped a pair of games against Big 12 Conference opponents, falling 44-17 at Iowa State in 2008 and 31-17 at Kansas in 2012.
HOMECOMING GAME: The South Dakota State football roster features six players from the state of Missouri. Two of those players, backup defensive backs Mark Pickerel and Freeman Simmons, will be making a true homecoming Saturday as they are both graduates of Columbia’s Rock Bridge High School.Pickerel is a junior, while Simmons is expected to make his collegiate debut after redshirting during the 2013 season.
Other Missouri natives on the Jackrabbit roster include:
• Jay Carlson, Jr., kicker (kickoffs), Parkville;
• Auston LaBlance, Sr., defensive lineman, Kansas City;
• Andrew Mueller, Sr., offensive lineman, Peculiar;
• Dom Wright, Sr., wide receiver/kick returner, Lee’s Summit
CAPTAINS: Leading the Jackrabbit football team on the field and in the locker room are five captains:
• T.J. Lally, Jr., linebacker, Chicago, Ill.;
• Jason Schneider, Sr., wide receiver, Andover, Minn.;
• Jack Sherlock, Sr., defensive back, Chicago, Ill.;
• Austin Sumner, Sr., quarterback, Brandon, S.D.;
• Zach Zenner, Sr., running back, Eagan, Minn.
Sumner has been selected as a team captain for the third season and Zenner is in his second year as a captain.
RABBITS RANKED: The South Dakota State University football team enters the 2014 season with its second-consecutive preseason top-10 national ranking as a member of the Football Championship Subdivison. The Jackrabbits are ranked 10th in both the Sports Network media poll and the FCS Coaches Poll.
Three-time defending national champion and Missouri Valley Football Conference rival North Dakota State has been tabbed as the top team in the preseason coaches poll, while Eastern Washington, which eliminated the Jackrabbits in the second round of the 2013 FCS playoffs, is tabbed as the top team in the Sports Network poll.
SDSU, coached by John Stiegelmeier, is ranked in several other preseason polls, including:
• Lindy’s — 6th
• Bennett — 9th
• Athlon — 11th
• Sporting News — 19th
JACKS PICKED SECOND IN MVFC: The South Dakota State University football team has been picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference during the 2014 season, according to a preseason poll released in late July.
Three-time defending national champion North Dakota State again was tabbed as the conference favorite in the poll, which was conducted by the league’s coaches, sports information directors and select media representatives. NDSU has won 24 consecutive games entering the 2014 season.
The Bison earned 24 of a possible 39 first-place votes and 370 total points. South Dakota State was picked second in the poll after tying for second place and representing the league in the FCS playoffs a year ago. The Jackrabbits received eight first-place votes.
Perennial FCS power Northern Iowa was selected third in the poll after going 7-5 last year, with Youngstown State and Southern Illinois completing the upper-half of the poll.
Illinois State and Missouri State were picked sixth and seventh, respectively, with South Dakota, Western Illinois and Indiana State completing the 10-team poll.
A preseason favorite has claimed the league crown 16 times (in 28 previous polls). North Dakota State was picked to win the league last season.
In addition, six Jackrabbit players were named to the MVFC Preseason Team. Leading the SDSU contingent was senior running back Zach Zenner, who already holds the league record for career all-purpose yards and needs less than 300 yards to set the conference’s all-time rushing mark. Zenner has rushed for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
Fellow senior Austin Sumner was tabbed as the quarterback on the preseason team. An honorable mention all-MVFC honoree in 2013, Sumner threw for 2,999 yards en route to setting SDSU career records for completions, yards and attempts.
Sumner’s primary target a season ago, Jason Schneider, also was honored on the preseason team. Schneider set a Jackrabbit single-season record with 78 receptions for 1,088 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013 to earn first-team all-MVFC honors.
Completing the Jackrabbits’ selections on the offensive side of the ball was offensive lineman Trevor Greger. A senior, Greger has started 30 consecutive games at right tackle over the past three seasons.
Sophomore Cole Langer, a member of the MVFC Newcomer Team in 2013, was selected to the preseason team after a freshman season in which he recorded 35 tackles.Honorable mention selection T.J. Lally rounded out the Jackrabbit preseason honorees. A junior linebacker, Lally finished second on the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, including 89 stops in 2013.
North Dakota State led the league with eight selections to the preseason team, followed by SDSU and UNI with six.
NEW FACILITIES: The South Dakota State University football program is expected to benefit greatly from the addition of two new facilities that are either nearing completion or beginning construction.
The Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, which is scheduled to open in October, will serve as the indoor practice facility for the Jackrabbit football team and a number of ther Jackrabbit squads. The complex, which features 100 yards of soy-based AstroTurf, also will house a 300-meter indoor track and expanded areas for strength and conditioning, sports medicine and coaches’ offices.
In October 2013, SDSU officials announced 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 Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, which will have a seating capacity of 18,500 to 20,000, will replace Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which has served as the home of Jackrabbit football since 1962. The new stadium will be built on the current Coughlin-Alumni Stadium site, with completion scheduled for the summer of 2016.
The estimated $65 million project was approved by the South Dakota Legislature this past winter and signed into law by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Construction will 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 in 2016.
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.
ZENNER ON PAYTON WATCH LIST: South Dakota State University running back Zach Zenner is one of 20 players named to the initial watch list for the Walter Payton Award, which is presented annually to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision by The Sports Network.
A 6-foot, 220-pound senior, Zenner is the only two-time finalist in the initial pool of players being considered for the award. A native of Eagan, Minnesota, Zenner placed seventh in the balloting in 2012 and sixth in 2013. The watch list will be updated periodically during the 2014 season, with the Walter Payton Award to be presented for the 28th time on Dec. 15. The award is selected by a panel of more than 150 sport information directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.
During the 2013 season, Zenner became only the second player in FCS history to rush for 2,000 yards in two separate seasons, gaining 2,015 yards and scoring 25 touchdows — 23 rushing, two receiving — as the Jackrabbits made a return trip to the postseason. He burst onto the FCS scene in 2012 by leading the nation in rushing with 2,044 yards — an average of 157.2 yards per game.
A two-time first-team All-America selection, Zenner leads all active FCS players with 4,529 career rushing yards and 5,871 career all-purpose yards. His all-purpose yards mark already is a Missouri Valley Football Conference record, while his rushing total is 218 away from a league record.
Zenner has crossed the 100-yard mark 21 times in the team's 27 games over the past two seasons, including six performances of 200-plus yards.
For updates throughout the 2014 season, follow Twitter using the hashtag #ZennerForPayton.
JACKRABBIT BLOODLINES: Sophomore defensive tackle Cole Langer leads a group of South Dakota State football players with Jackrabbit bloodlines.
Langer, a native of Dell Rapids, South Dakota, is a third-generation Jackrabbit student-athlete. His grandfather, Jim Langer, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a standout career with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. The starting center for the undefeated Dolphins team in 1972, Jim Langer earned all-conference honors in football at South Dakota State as a linebacker in 1969 and was an All-America selection in baseball as an outfielder that same year.
In addition, Cole Langer’s father, Tracy, was an all-conference catcher in baseball for the Jackrabbits from 1989-92. Tracy’s brothers, Craig and Russ, also played baseball at South Dakota State.
Several other Jackrabbits have extensive Jackrabbit bloodlines, including junior offensive lineman Taylor Bloom, sophomore offensive lineman Seth Lansman and redshirt freshman linebacker Austin Benson, all of whom have both parents as former SDSU student-athletes.
Bloom’s father, Tom, lettered in football from 1987-90 and was a team captain during his senior season. His mother, Angie, played softball at SDSU.
Lansman’s father, Howard, lettered in football from 1984-85, while his mother, Tara (Tessier) was a standout women’s basketball player from 1985-88. Tara Lansman will be inducted into the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame later this fall.
Benson’s father, Chuck, lettered on Jackrabbit football teams from 1975-78 and served as a team captain as a senior, and his mother, JoElle (Byre), competed in women’s basketball from 1983-85. In addition, his younger sister, Ellie, is a member of the Jackrabbit volleyball squad this fall.
STEADY SYROVATKA: South Dakota State kicker Justin Syrovatka will attempt to build off some record-setting performances during his first three seasons.
A senior from Sioux Falls, Syrovatka holds the Jackrabbit record for consecutive field goals made with 15.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. His streak ended when he missed a 29-yard attempt at Nebraska on Sept. 21, 2013.
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 also put together a streak of 47 consecutively made PATs, which ended Nov. 9, 2013, 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 104-of-106 on PATs.
In addition, Syrovatka enters the 2014 season tied for second place on the Jackrabbit career field goals chart with Brett Gorden (1995-98) with 36. Douglass is the all-time leader with 62 field goals from 2004-07.
COACH STIG HONORED: South Dakota State University head football coach John Stiegelmeier has been named the 2014 recipient of the Ralph Ginn Award for Coaching Excellence and will be honored in conjunction with Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Oct. 11.
Stiegelmeier, who is entering his 18th season as Jackrabbit head coach, has compiled a 111-81 career record and stands three wins away from passing Ginn atop the SDSU career victories chart. He has led the Jackrabbits to a winning record in 13 of 17 seasons, including eight of 10 at the Division I level.
The Selby native was named North Central Conference Coach of the Year in 1999 and Great West Football Conference Coach of the Year in 2007 after leading SDSU to its first conference title at the Division I level and their first league championship in 44 years.
Coach Stig also was named a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award during the 2007 and 2009 seasons, the latter marking the Jackrabbits’ first appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. SDSU also made consecutive FCS playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013, winning an opening-round game each season.
Since moving to Division I at the start of the 2004 season, Stiegelmeier has led the Jackrabbits to a 69-48 record in the FCS era.
Prior to becoming head coach, Stiegelmeier served as an assistant coach for the Jackrabbit football team from 1988-96. He joined Wayne Haensel’s coaching staff as secondary coach and recruiting coordinator before being elevated to defensive coordinator under new head coach Mike Daly in 1991. In six seasons as defensive coordinator, Stiegelmeier helped guide the Jackrabbits to a 41-23 overall record. SDSU turned in a winning record all six seasons, including five seven-win campaigns. That track record of success helped Stiegelmeier secure his first collegiate head coaching position in December 1996, when he was named Daly’s successor.
A 1979 graduate of South Dakota State with degrees in mathematics and physical education, Stiegelmeier served as a student assistant for the Jackrabbit team that made its lone appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs. He furthered his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Northern Iowa before coaching at the prep level at Eau Claire (Wis.) North High School from 1981-84. He returned to collegiate coaching as defensive coordinator, secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Northern State from 1984-87 and later served a stint at the University of Wisconsin while working on his doctorate.
The Ralph Ginn Award for Coaching Excellence was first awarded in 1972. Recipients of the award must be graduates of SDSU and have distinguished themselves in the fields of coaching and education. Ginn coached Jackrabbit football teams to a 113-89-9 record and won nine North Central Conference titles in 22 seasons from 1947-68.
WORKING OVERTIME: SDSU’s 37-34 double-overtime victory over Northern Iowa on Oct. 26, 2013, 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.
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.)
2013: SDSU 37, Northern Iowa 34 (2 OT — at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium)
JACKRABBIT INSIDER: Throughout the 2014 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 2014 football season.
The show is scheduled to air at 6 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 package.
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 will return home for their 2014 home opener Sept. 6 against Cal Poly. Kickoff for the inaugural Dairy Drive game is slated for 6 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.