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South Dakota State Preview: #8 Jackrabbits Host Southern Illinois

SDSU v Duquesne 2017
Dave Eggen/Inertia

After a setback in their Missouri Valley Conference opener, South Dakota State looks to regroup heading into a stretch of very winnable games.

The eighth-ranked Jackrabbits (4-1/0-1 MVFC) return home Saturday night (October 7) to face Southern Illinois.

The Salukis (2-2/0-1 MVFC) could easily be unbeaten a month into the season. They led FBS’ Memphis at halftime in week three and had the ball late with a couple of chances to win against Northern Iowa last weekend.

Southern Illinois is very balanced on offense – 157 passes and 152 runs so far in four games.They are averaging 35 points per game and put up 39 in a six-point loss to the Jackrabbits last year.

Quarterback Sam Straub has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 241 yards a game. Receiver Connor Iwena had 107 yards in receiving against SDSU last year, while Darrell James already has five TD catches this year.

On the ground, running back Daquan Isom is averaging five yards a carry after being selected to the Missouri Valley’s All-Newcomer team last year.

Defensively, SIU is among the 25 best teams in FCS against the run. The Salukis have also forced eight turnovers so far and sacked the opposing quarterback 12 times.

Lineman Kyron Watson and linebacker Anthony Knighton have combined for five sacks and ten tackles for loss. Watson had a sack and forced fumble against SDSU last year.

Defensive back Jeremy Chinn has two interceptions.

One of the keys to the game could be field position. Saluki punter Lane Reazin is second in FCS, averaging 43 yards a kick.

Kickoff is 6:00 PM Brookings, Saturday night.

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In last week’s 19-7 loss at Youngstown State, the Jackrabbits were on their way to another fast start when disaster struck. Tight end Dallas Goedert hauled in a pass near the goal line on SDSU’s first possession, when he was stripped of the ball, and the Penguins recovered on their own six yard line.

From there, backup quarterback Nathan Mays, inserted mid-drive for injured starter Hunter Wells, helped YSU negotiate 94 yards in 16 plays to take a 7-0 lead.

The Jackrabbit offense responded with a touchdown drive of their own to tie it, but on the Penguins second possession they implemented a strategy that would prove to the the difference in the game – running the football on nearly every down.

Youngstown ran nine plays on that drive – all on the ground – gobbling up yardage and eating up time.

Of the 86 plays the Penguins would run against SDSU, 63 were running plays, going for a total of 310 yards.

All of those yards on the ground, plus converting on 10-of-16 third down tries, kept the ball in YSU’s hands for more than 45 minutes, keeping the Jackrabbits high powered offense off the field.

In all, SDSU ran just 37 plays to Youngstown’s 86.

The Jacks didn’t help their own cause, turning the ball over twice and allowing a safety, one play after ending a Penguin drive with an interception.

I talked with Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelmeier about the Youngstown State loss and the match-up with Southern Illinois:

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