South Dakota State 2016 Recap: History and Disappointment
It all began with a new home - Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium - the first new football facility for the South Dakota State since 1962.
The 2016 Jackrabbits, already building on a run of four-straight post season appearances, tacked on two more important milestones this season: a first-ever Missouri Valley Football Conference regular season championship (shared with NDSU) and the school's first top eight seed in the playoffs. Only the Bison, New Hampshire, and Sam Houston State can match South Dakota State's streak of five consecutive post season berths.
Along the way, the Jackrabbits (9-4) did it in record-breaking fashion on the offensive side of the ball, passing or tying 28 different school records this season.
Things started well for the the Jackrabbits in their first-ever quarterfinal appearance, as they scored the first ten points of the game in Fargo.Their lone touchdown coming on a trick play that was worth of mention on ESPN's SportsCenter.
But the SDSU defense allowed the Bison to convert on 10-of-13 third down attempts and stay on the field for nearly 41 minutes of the game. That kept the Jackrabbits explosive offense in check and wore SDSU down on defense in the second half.
South Dakota State will say goodbye to 17 seniors off of the 2016 team. It is a group that will leave Brookings as the most successful class in history with 35 wins, four straight playoff appearances, three post season victories, and the school's first ever co-Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
The biggest hits to the roster will come on the defensive side of the ball, with seven players (linemen Jared Blum, Cole Langer, and Shane Gotlob; linebackers Jesse Bobbit, Dallas Brown, and Cody Hazelett; defensive back Nick Mears) who saw considerable playing time this season leaving.
Offensively, running back Kyle Paris and wide receiver Connor Landberg will graduate, but SDSU will have plenty of senior firepower with wide receiver Jake Wieneke, tight end Dallas Goedert, and running back Brady Mengarelli all back. Seniors Jacob Ohnesorge and Charlie Haermon will anchor the offensive line.
Reigning MVFC Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Taryn Christion will be back for his junior season.
The 2017 season does not feature a game against a FBS opponent for the first time since 2006. It kicks off with non-conference games against Duquesne (home), Montana State (away), and Drake (home), before a bye week leading into the MVFC schedule.
In league play, the Jackrabbits host Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, and Illinois State, and play at Youngstown State, Missouri State, Western Illinois, and South Dakota.
I talked with SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier about the North Dakota State loss, his outgoing senior class, and what to expect for 2017: