South Dakota State Preview: #7 Jackrabbits Host #13 Youngstown State
Ordinarily a victory over the top ranked team in the nation, in their building, when they just happen to be the five-time defending National Champions, is cause for a major celebration, and leaves the potential for a major letdown going forward. But for South Dakota State, life in the Missouri Valley Conference is going to keep them getting too high after snapping an eight-game losing streak to North Dakota State, because there's too much at stake in the immediate future.
It all starts with this week's Hobo Day match-up against Youngstown State.
The #7 Jackrabbits (4-2/3-0) and the #13 Penguins (5-1/3-0) are the lone unbeaten teams in league play, which means Saturday's winner takes over sole possession of first place with a month to go.
This game will feature a number of intriguing story lines:
- SDSU's #1 overall offense (472 yards per game) in the MFC vs. YSU's #1 overall defense (271 ypg)
- SDSU's #1 scoring offense (41 points per game) in the MVC vs. YSU's #1 scoring defense (15 ppg)
- SDSU's #1 passing attack (334 ypg) in the MVC vs. YSU's #1 pass defense (175 ypg)
- YSU has the only defense in FCS not to allow a rushing touchdown this season
- YSU has the top rushing attack in the MVC (259 ypg)
The Penguins defense dominance starts up front with lineman Savon Smith, Avery Moss, and Derek Rivers not only stopping the run, but getting to the quarterback more than anyone in the league - 24 times in six games.
Offensively, Youngstown has four legitimate running threats, with running backs Martin Ruiz, Jody Webb, and Tevin McCaster, along with quarterback Ricky Davis all averaging better than 4.5 yards per carry.
Ruiz (82 ypg) and Davis (59 ypg) are among the top ten rushers in the conference.
Davis is one of three quarterbacks to play for head coach Bo Pelini's team in 2016. He has started all five games he's played in, but left last week's win over Northern Iowa early with a bruised knee. He is expected to start Saturday in Brookings.
YSU is also dangerous on special teams, where Darien Townsend is eighth in the nation in punt returns (29 yards per).
SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion is the STATS National Offensive Player of the Week, as well as the MVC Player of the Week, after accounting for 444 yards of total offense (303 passing, career-high 141 rushing) in last week's win over North Dakota State.
Jackrabbits lineman Christian Rozeboom is the MVC Defensive Player of the Week after recording a team-high 12 tackles, including a key sack in the fourth quarter in Fargo.
Kickoff is 2:00 PM, Saturday, in Brookings.
The 103rd Hobo Day game could be the first sellout in the history of brand new Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, which seats better than 19,000.
In Fargo last weekend, the Jackrabbits beat a #1 team for the first time in school history with their 19-17 win over North Dakota State.
The SDSU offense out gained NDSU by more than 200 yards, but trailed 17-3 in the third quarter after turning the ball over three times on downs in Bison territory, twice inside the NDSU five-yard line.
The defense provided a spark in the third when a Nick Farina fumble recovery gave the Jacks the ball at midfield. Five plays later they were in the end zone for the first time when Christion hit Dallas Goedert for a 12-yard score.
SDSU had a chance to tie it on their next possession, but again were denied deep in NDSU territory, when Christion was picked off in the end zone.
Trailing 17-13 with 2:28 left in the fourth, the Jackrabbit offense had one final chance to put the ball in the end zone, and they responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive which featured a pair of third down conversions and a fourth down, one-yard touchdown pass from Christion to Jake Wieneke with one second left to take the lead for good.
I talked with SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier about the win over the Bison and Saturday's game with Youngstown State: