South Dakota State Comes Ever so Close to Extending 2014 Season, Looks Ahead to 2015
If only South Dakota State's second round FCS Playoff game with North Dakota State last weekend was a minute shorter, it would be the Jackrabbits, not the Bison, on to the quarterfinals this weekend.
But thanks to a touchdown pass with just :54 left, the three-time defending National Champions prevailed, 27-24, and SDSU was out of the post season in round two for the third straight year.
I talked with Jacks head coach John Stiegelmeier this week about the game in Fargo, which saw SDSU dig themselves an early two-score deficit:
That loss not only ends the 2014 season, but also brings down the the curtain on the top class to ever wear the blue and gold: 32 wins and three straight playoff appearances with a trio of opening round victories.
It was a class filled with talent on both sides of the ball, highlighted by Zach Zenner, the first running back in FCS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in three straight seasons.
But Coach Stiegelmeier says there's much more to this group of 16 seniors than just wins and losses:
Already the focus in Brookings is on 2015, with an emphasis on filling some of the holes left behind by graduation.
On offense it starts at quarterback, with incoming junior Zach Lujan poised to take over for Austin Sumner.
The SDSU coaching staff got a good look at Lujan this season, when he filled in for the injured Sumner, starting seven games, throwing 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions for nearly 1,700 yards during those starts.
I asked Coach Stiegelmeier for an early status report for the 2015 Jackrabbits: