With an average margin of victory of nearly four touchdowns in the first three weeks of the 2017 season, things have come pretty easy at times for South Dakota State.

But all of that is about to change.

The Jackrabbits (3-0) get a breather this week as they prepare for another tiptoe through what is the minefield of the Missouri Valley Conference, with seven teams, including SDSU, in the Top 25. Five of those teams are on the Jacks schedule over the final eight weeks of the season.

South Dakota State has settled in at number four in the FCS polls, even picking up a first place vote in the STATS Top 25.

First up after the bye week is a September 30 trip to Ohio to battle a Youngstown State team that was the national runner-up last year and is currently ranked fifth and sixth in the latest FCS polls.

The Jackrabbits (3-0) got in their final non-conference tune-up with a 51-10 win at home over Drake.

Against the Bulldogs, it was business as usual for SDSU, which meant another big first quarter. The Jacks put it in the end zone all three times they touched the ball in the first 15 minutes, while the defense pitched another first quarter shutout.

In three games, South Dakota State has outscored opponents 42-0 in the first quarter, 92-17 in the first half.

Last Saturday, it was the usual suspects getting the job done on the SDSU offense. Quarterback Taryn Christion threw for two scores and ran for another, while wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert each caught a touchdown pass.

Running back Mikey Daniel had one of his best days in a Jackrabbit uniform, averaging better than six yards a carry and scoring a touchdown.

Defensively, after registering just two sacks in the first two games, SDSU finally got to the quarterback, with seven different players combining for five sacks against Drake.

Linebacker Logan Backhaus picked off his second pass of the season.

It was also a day to shine for the Jackrabbit special teams:

  • Chase Vinatieri kicked a career-long 51-yard field goal
  • Cade Johnson returned a kickoff 95-yards for a touchdown
  • Larenzo Williams blocked a punt
  • Marquise Lewis had a 33-yard punt return

But one of the biggest numbers for South Dakota State is four. That's how many starters missed the Drake game with injuries. SDSU's success going forward will depend, in part, on that quartet getting healthy during the bye week.

I talked with Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelmeier about the Drake win and the week off: