South Dakota State Prepares for Fifth Straight Playoff Run
Everything South Dakota State has been building towards, not only this season, but for their duration of their run in Division I football, came together in one memorable November weekend.
The Jackrabbits came in Saturday knowing they were a virtual lock to make the FCS Playoffs for a fifth straight year, but in order for some of their most lofty goals to come to fruition, they need a victory at Northern Iowa, and some help from around the country.
SDSU did what they had to do, winning 45-24 in Cedar Falls, to wrap-up a share of their first Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship. And it just got better when a trio of teams ahead of the Jacks in the post season rankings all lost on the final day of the season, opening the door for South Dakota State to vault into the top eight, securing a first round bye, and a second round home game.
That was confirmed on Selection Sunday, when the Jackrabbits (8-3/7-1) were rewarded with the eighth-seed, as they now await the winner of St. Francis (PA) - Villanova for a December 3 game at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.
Against UNI, Jackrabbit wide receiver Jake Wieneke had a first quarter to remember, first running down a Brady Mengarelli fumble that had squirted 20 yards ahead, catching a touchdown pass from Taryn Christion on the very next play, and then throwing a TD pass to Christion on the next possession. Wieneke finished the day with seven catches for 136 yards and two scores.
The SDSU defense and special teams combined to force four Panther turnovers, highly out of character for a UNI team that was leading the MVFC in turnover margin coming into the game. The clincher was a fumble forced by Dallas Brown that popped right into the hands of defensive lineman Kellen Soulek, who rumbled down the sideline for a 65-yard score with 1:27 left.
I talked with SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier about the win at Northern Iowa and what lies ahead in the post season: