#11 South Dakota State Blanks Missouri State, Hosts #2 Illinois State in the Final Game at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium
If South Dakota State still has designs on winning its' first ever Missouri Valley Football Conference title, then a win over #2 Illinois State this weekend is a must.
The Redbirds are the league's lone unbeaten team after five weeks, and the Jackrabbits start play two games behind ISU with three to play.
SDSU is coming in riding the momentum of its' first shutout win in two years and first road shutout since 1998, a 39-0 victory at Missouri State last Saturday.
It was a week where the Jacks special teams excelled with four field goals from Jay Carlson, a pair of punts downed inside the 20 from Brady Hale, and smothering coverage that kept the MVC's top returner, Deion Holliman well below his season average. For his career-best day, Carlson was named the conference's Special Teams Player of the Week.
The Jackrabbit defense kept up its' torrid pace, now allowing just two touchdowns and 25 points in the last four games, the best stretch from a SDSU defense since 1962. Jesse Bobbit had seven tackles and a sack, Chris Balster, starting for the injured Nick Mears, had seven tackles, while Kellen Soulek added an interception.
Offensively, the Jacks went with a quarterback rotation for the entire game for the first time, and both Zach Lujan and Taryn Christion responded with solid performances. Lujan went 15-of-19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns passing, while Christion went 9-of-11 for 97 yards and a score, as SDSU amassed 439 yards of total offense.
The Jackrabbits (6-2/3-2) played turnover-free football for the seventh time in eight games this year.
The victory moved SDSU up three spots in this week's STATS FCS rankings. The Jacks are now 11th in the nation.
This week, it's SDSU's second match-up of the season with a Top Five team as #2 Illinois State comes to Brookings.
The Redbirds (7-1/5-0) had to rally from 15 points down in the third quarter last week against Indiana State, winning 27-24. Running back Marshaun Coprich, the leading rusher in the MVC, racked up 116 of his 165 yards in the second half to key the comeback.
Coprich isn't the only threat on the Redbird offense. Quarterback Tre Roberson became the first player in league history to surpass 4,000 yards in total offense last season, while this year, wide receiver Anthony Warrum has 35 catches and ten touchdowns.
Defensively, ISU returns lineman Teddy Corwin and linebacker Pat Meehan, who combined for 24 tackles in a 45-10 win over SDSU in 2014. The Redbirds turned the Jacks over four times in that game.
Kickoff is 2:00 PM Saturday, in Brookings. It will be the final game played at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium after 53 years. Starting Monday, the west grandstand will be torn down to make way for Dana J. Dkyhouse Stadium next season.
Here is my interview with SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier on the Missouri State win and the match-up with Illinois State in the final game at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium: