BROOKINGS, SD -- The nationally ranked South Dakota State University football team will be in search of its fifth consecutive win as it hosts Western Illinois Saturday in the annual Hall of Fame Game.

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame inductees Joel Brandt, Brad Reynolds, Karla Stevenson, Adam Timmer and Don Trapp will be honored at halftime.

Saturday's game also is Military Appreciation Night at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Active military personnel and veterans presenting proper identification at the southwest stadium entrance will receive two free tickets to the game. Gates open at 4:30 p.m.

Following a rare in-season bye week, the 20th-ranked Jackrabbits enter Saturday's matchup with a 4-1 overall record, including a 2-0 mark in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Three weeks into the league slate, SDSU is one of only two teams still undefeated in Missouri Valley Football Conference play. Top-ranked North Dakota State is the other at 2-0 in the MVFC and 5-0 overall.

In their last outing, Sept. 29 against Missouri State, the Jackrabbits recorded a 17-7 home victory to run their winning streak against Football Championship Subdivision opponents to seven games - their best run again FCS opponents since moving up from NCAA Division II at the start of the 2004 season.

Western Illinois, meanwhile, got back on the winning track last week with a 24-17 win at the University of South Dakota. The Fighting Leathernecks improved to 3-2 overall and evened their MVFC mark at 1-1.

Saturday's game will be televised as part of the Missouri Valley Football Conference television package on Mediacom cable systems throughout the Midwest. The game also can be viewed on and via the ESPN Gameplan premium package. Additional coverage will be available via the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at

THE SERIES: Saturday's game marks the 10th meeting between South Dakota State and Western Illinois, a series that began with a 28-21 Fighting Leatherneck victory in 1976.

On the strength of their current four-game winning streak, the Jackrabbits lead the all-time series, 5-4. SDSU has won all four meetings between the two programs as members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Each of the last two meetings in Brookings have gone down to the wire.

In 2008, South Dakota State led 24-0 at half, but needed to stop a two-point conversion in the final minutes to hang on for a 24-22 victory.

The 2010 matchup featured three lead changes in the final seven minutes before the Jackrabbits prevailed, 33-29. Kyle Minett gave SDSU a 26-21 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run with under seven minutes to play before Western Illinois regained a 29-26 lead two and a half minutes later on a 4-yard pass from Matt Barr to Josh Gabelmann, followed by a two-point conversion.

SDSU's winning drive was set up by a 32-yard kickoff return by Cole Brodie and ended when Thomas O'Brien hit Colin Cochart from 13 yards out with 1:36 to play in the game. The Jackrabbits then batted down a pass in the end zone on the final play of the game to seal the win.

WIU's last victory in the series was a 29-26, four-overtime win in the 2007 season opener in Macomb. The game stands as the longest in SDSU football history.

Previous results include:
• Sept. 11, 1976: Western Illinois 28, South Dakota State 21 (at Brookings)
• Sept. 10, 1977: SDSU 23, Western Illinois 6 (at Macomb, Ill.)
• Sept. 13, 1980: Western Illinois 33, SDSU 27 (at Brookings)
• Sept. 12 1981: Western Illinois 17, SDSU 13 (at Macomb, Ill.)
• Aug. 30, 2007: Western Illinois 29, SDSU 26 [four overtimes] (at Macomb, Ill.)
• Sept. 13, 2008: SDSU 24, Western Illinois 22 (at Brookings)
• Nov. 21, 2009: SDSU 27, Western Illinois 7 (at Macomb, Ill.)
• Oct. 9, 2010: SDSU 33, Western Illinois 29 (at Brookings)
• Nov. 12, 2011: SDSU 27, Western Illinois 7 (at Macomb, Ill.)

RABBITS RANKED: Following its win over nationally ranked Indiana State on Sept. 22, the South Dakota State University football team returned to the Football Championship Subdivision rankings for the first time since September 2010 with a  25th-place showing in the Sept. 24 Sports Network media poll.The Jackrabbits moved up to 23rd in the Oct. 1 poll and climbed three more spots to 20th in this week's poll.

SDSU, which is the top team among others receiving votes in the coaches' poll, is one of four Missouri Valley Football Conference teams to be ranked this week. North Dakota State holds the top spot in both polls, while Youngstown State is eighth in the media poll and ninth in the coaches poll. Illinois State is currently ranked 14th in the Sports Network poll and 16th in the FCS Coaches poll.

CAPTAINS: Leading the Jackrabbit football team on the field and in the locker room are five captains:
• Seth Daughters, Sr., tight end, Winner, S.D.
• Bo Helm, Sr., defensive back, Childress, Texas
• Ross Shafrath, Sr., linebacker, Hampton, Iowa
• Austin Sumner, So., quarterback, Brandon, S.D.
• Winston Wright, Jr., defensive back, Lee's Summit, Mo.
The Jackrabbits broke from tradition this season by naming two non-senior players - Sumner and Wright - as captains. Previously, all team captains were selected from the senior class.

VALLEY PREVIEW: South Dakota State has been picked to finish sixth in the 2012 Missouri Valley Football Conference Preseason Poll, which was announced in early August. Defending national champion North Dakota State gained the top spot, receiving 37 of 38 first-place votes in the poll conducted by league coaches, sports information directors and select media. Northern Iowa, which tied NDSU for the league regular season title a year ago, finished second in the poll, followed by Youngstown State and Illinois State.

Indiana State rounded out the top half of the poll, with SDSU taking sixth. Southern Illinois, South Dakota, Western Illinois and Missouri State completed the poll.

Individually, three Jackrabbit players were recognized on the 2012 Missouri Valley Football Preseason Team. Offensively, senior wide receiver Aaron Rollin and tackle Bryan Witzmann were honored along with defensive back Winston Wright.

Rollin, an honorable mention all-league performer last season, tied for the team lead with 61 receptions last season. The Lee's Summit, Mo., native also gained 906 yards through the air and reccorded a team-best seven touchdowns in 2011.

Witzmann, a junior from Houlton, Wis., also earned honorable mention all-MVFC honors in 2011. He has started all 22 games at left tackle over the last two seasons.

Wright, a junior from Lee's Summit, Mo., was a second-team all-MVFC selection in 2011 after recording a team-best three interceptions from his cornerback position. Wright also notched 57 tackles and a team-best seven pass breakups.

Also recognized on the preseason team was honorable mention selection Andy Mink on the defensive line. A native of Ashland, Neb., Mink racked up 75 tackles, including team-best totals of 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2011.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: South Dakota State has racked up a number of Missouri Valley Football Conference player of the week awards during its current four-game winning streak.

Senior linebacker Ross Shafrath was the latest Jackrabbit award winner, earning MVFC Defensive Player of the Week recognition after recording a team-high 12 tackles and intercepting a pair of passes as South Dakota State defeated Missouri State, 17-7, on Sept. 29. Named the Outstanding Player of the 46th Annual Beef Bowl, Shafrath also broke up a pass. His two interceptions were half of the four Jackrabbit picks on the day.

Redshirt freshman linebacker linebacker T.J. Lally Lally was named as both the MVFC Defensive Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week for his performance in the Jackrabbits' league-opening win over 22nd-ranked Indiana State on Sept. 22. The Chicago native recorded 10 tackles, including a half-tackle for loss, and added an interception and two more pass breakups in the win over the Sycamores. For the game, SDSU held Indiana State to 23 net yards rushing on 25 attempts. The Jackrabbits limited Walter Payton Award candidate Shakir Bell to 54 yards on 18 carries and, other than on a fake punt, did not allow a rushing play of more than five yards.

Lally previously earned MVFC Newcomer of the Week and Sports Network National Freshman of the Week recognition after tallying four sacks in a Sept. 15 home victory over UC Davis. Sophomore punter Ethan Sawyer was named MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts against UC Davis.

In addition, running back Zach Zenner was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week and Will Castle received MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week recognition for their performances in the Sept. 8 win at Southeastern Louisiana.

SCOUTING WESTERN ILLINOIS: The Western Illinois football team will be making its second trip to the state of South Dakota in as many weeks as it takes on nationally ranked South Dakota State.

The Fighting Leathernecks recorded a 24-17 victory last Saturday at the University of South Dakota to up their record to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Western Illinois has already exceeded its win total from a year ago, when the Fighting Leathernecks finished with a 2-9 overall record in a rebuilding season.

The Leatherneck offense this season has been built around the running back tandem of Nikko Watson and Caulton Ray. Watson leads the squad with 441 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The sophomore has topped the 100-yard mark two times this season, including a season-best 126 yards last week at South Dakota.

A senior, Ray has started all five games and has gained 310 yards. He gained 106 yards in the season opener against Butler (Ind.) and added 99 yards a week later against the University of Indianapolis.

The backs run behind an offensive line anchored by junior Jimmy Holtschlag and senior center Andrew Robiskie.

At quarterback, the Fighting Leathernecks made a successful change last week as Wil Lunt passed for 180 yards and two scores in the win at South Dakota. His 66-yard touchdown pass to Fredson Salomon midway through the fourth quarter broke a 17-all tie and proved to be the winning score.

Josh Hudson had seen the bulk of the reps at quarterback early in the season, but has yet to throw a touchdown in four starts. Hudson is completing 56.1 percent (46-of-82) of his passes for 378 yards.
Salomon, the reigning MVFC Newcomer of the Week, ranks second on the team with 14 catches, recording team highs of 201 yards and two touchdowns. He also has returned a dozen kickoffs for an average of 17.9 yards per attempt.

Charles Chestnut leads WIU with 15 receptions.

A young Western Illinois defense features only two senior starters: cornerback Kieron James and defensive end Dwight Harris. James ranks third on the team with 26 tackles and has added an interception, while Harris has tallied 13 tackles and a pair of pass breakups.

Linebacker J.J. Raffelson, a candidate for the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision, leads the team with 48 tackles, followed by sophomore strong safety Jonathon Rollins with 32.

WIU features one of the top kickers in the FCS ranks in Pat Smith. The junior has made all eight field goal attempts this season, with a a long of 46 yards, and converted all eight PATs. Smith also handles the punting duties, averaging 37.8 yards per attempt.

ZENNER ON PAYTON WATCH LIST: South Dakota State University running back Zach Zenner last week was officially added to the Walter Payton Award Watch List.

The Walter Payton Award, presented by The Sports Network, and in its 26th year, is presented to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

A sophomore from Eagan, Minn., Zenner leads the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing with 1,077 yards through five games - an average of of 215.4 yards per game. He is only the third back in Missouri Valley Football Conference history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in five games.

The Payton Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.

Zenner set career highs with 23 carries and 183 rushing yards in the Jackrabbits' 2012 season-opening loss at Kansas on Sept. 1. He opened the scoring with a 99-yard touchdown run - the longest offensive play from scrimmage in program history, surpassing Mike Lunde's 95-yard run against North Dakota in 1976. Zenner also caught four passes for 27 yards, giving him 210 all-purpose yards in the contest.

He followed that performance by again establishing career highs with 34 carries for 278 yards at Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8. Zenner scored on a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter at Southeastern Louisiana, then added a pair of touchdowns - including the game-winning 23-yard score - en route to 197 yards Sept. 15 versus UC Davis as he crossed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career.

Zenner tallied runs of 57 and 87 yards Sept. 22 at Indiana State en route to 237 yards on 29 carries. He upped his season total to an NCAA-best 1,077 yards with a 30-carry, 182-yard performance Sept. 29 against Missouri State that included an 88-yard touchdown run. He needs only 88 yards to move into the Jackrabbit single-season top-10 rushing chart.

All five of his single-game performances rank in the top 25 among FCS players in 2012. Zenner is averaging 7.9 yards per carry and 215.4 yards per game this season.

As a kick returner and running back during his redshirt freshman season, Zenner ranked third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2011 with an average of 123.1 all-purpose yards per game, earning him a spot on the league's all-newcomer team. He made his first career start at running back Oct. 29 at Missouri State.

LALLY RECEIVES RICE ATTENTION: For the second year in a row, the South Dakota State University football team has a player under consideration for the Jerry Rice Award, which is presented to the top freshman player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Last week, linebacker T.J. Lally was officially named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List following his strong start to the 2012 season.

A redshirt freshman from Chicago, Lally ranks second on the nationally ranked Jackrabbits for tackles with 41 and shares the team lead with four sacks. He has twice been named Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week and also was named MVFC Defensive Player of the Week following the Jackrabbits' conference-opening win at Indiana State on Sept. 22. Lally also has intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble in 2012.

Lally is one of four Missouri Valley Football Conference players on the season's initial watch list. Missouri State running back Ryan Heaston, Northern Iowa quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen and Western Illinois linebacker J.J. Raffelson also are being considered for the Jerry Rice Award, which is named for the legendary wide receiver, who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State.

The award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The list will grow to 20 finalists by then, with the award to be presented Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.

During the 2011 season, Jackrabbit quarterback Austin Sumner placed third in the balloting for the inaugural Jerry Rice Award.

SUMNER AT THE HELM: South Dakota State University quarterback Austin Sumner will attempt to build off an impressive freshman season a year ago.

Although not expected to play in the Sept. 1 season opener at Kansas due to an injury suffered in practice the previous week, Sumner entered the game in the third quarter and led the Jackrabbits on two scoring drives, including throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Tyrel Kool early in the fourth quarter. Sumner finished the game 14-of-31 passing for 175 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted four times. He followed with a two-touchdown performance at Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8.

A native of Brandon, S.D., Sumner started the final eight games of the 2011 season, leading the Jackrabbits to a 4-4 record and setting the Missouri Valley Football Conference freshman record with 2,382 yards passing. Sumner, who finished third in the voting for the inaugural Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision, also tied a Jackrabbit single-game record with 37 completions versus nationally ranked Northern Iowa on Oct. 15, 2011.

Sumner topped the 300-yard mark five times in 2011, including throwing for a career-best 377 yards in a double-overtime win over Missouri State.

DUAL THREAT: South Dakota State's Tyrel Kool has shifted all around the field during his Jackrabbit career and will see action both in the backfield and at wide receiver in 2012.

A senior from Yankton, Kool began his collegiate career as a running back and kick returner, but switched to wide receiver during the 2010 season, when he led the team with 64 receptions for 808 yards. His receptions total is fifth-most in a season by a Jackrabbit player, while his receiving yards mark stood 10th in a single season as he earned honorable mention all-Missouri Valley Football Conference recognition.

In 2011, Kool moved back to running back and led the team with 534 yards rushing. He made the most of his first career start at running back, racking up 107 yards on the ground and another 79 through the air in the Jackrabbits' 2011 season opener against Southern Utah.

Kool started at wide receiver in the Sept 1 season opener at Kansas and recorded a team-high eight receptions for 76 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. He stands at 105 career receptions entering Saturday's game.

Additionally, Kool saw time at defensive back late in the 2009. He recorded 10 total tackles, including three in the Jackrabbits' playoff game at Montana.

ROLLIN RETURNS: Senior wide receiver Aaron Rollin rejoined the Jackrabbit lineup Sept. 22 at Indiana State after being injured in the Sept. 8 game at Southeastern Louisiana.

A native of Lee's Summit, Mo., Rollin is poised to enter the Jackrabbit career top 10 in a pair of receiving categories during the 2012 season. He recorded 96 receptions for 1,311 yards in his first three seasons with the Jackrabbits, but has been held to seven receptions for 78 yards thus far in 2012. He stands 13 catches away from cracking the SDSU careeer top 10 and 269 receiving yards shy of top-10 status.

Rollin put together a breaktrhough 2011 campaign, leading the team with seven touchdowns while sharing the team lead with 61 receptions. He teamed with Dale Moss to give SDSU one of the top receiving tandems in the nation as both receivers topped the 900-yard mark.

Rollin was held without a catch in the 2012 season opener at Kansas, ending his streak of consecutive games with a reception at 21, dating back to the 2009 season.

SHAFRATH STICKING OPPONENTS: Senior linebacker Ross Shafrath has led the team in tackles each of the first five games of the season for a team-best total of 57.

Shafrath opened 2012 with a career-high 16 tackles Sept. 1 at Kansas. His total was the most by a Jackrabbit player since linebacker Mike Lien notched 18 tackles in a 2010 game at North Dakota State. He then notched eight stops in the Sept. 8 win over Southeastern Louisiana and shared team-high honors with 10 stops versus UC Davis on Sept. 15. He again led the squad with 11 tackles in the Jackrabbits' league-opening win at Indiana State on Sept. 22, followed by a 12-tackle, two-interception performance Sept. 29 versus Missouri State en route to being named Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

A senior from Hampton, Iowa, Shafrath ranked fourth on the team in 2011 with 66 tackles despite being a part-time starter. His previous career high was 13 tackles at Missouri State on Oct. 29, 2011. Shafrath has tallied double digits in tackles in six of the last eight games dating back to last season.

STOUT DEFENSE: The Jackrabbit defense has been a resurgent unit in 2012, currently ranking in the top 10 of four different categories among Football Championship Subdivision programs:
• Sacks, second, 3.60 per game;
• Pass Efficiency Defense, third, 88.26;
• Scoring Defense, sixth, 14.0 points per game;
• Total Defense, eighth, 294.20.
In addition, the Jackrabbits rank 13th in rushing defense, allowing 110.4 yards per game on the ground.

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS: The Jackrabbit football team received valuable contributions from brothers Winston and Dom Wright during the 2011 season.

Natives of Lee's Summit, Mo., and Blue Springs South High School, both joined the SDSU football program in the fall of 2010. A junior, Winston Wright started all 11 games at cornerback last season en route to earning second-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors. He led the team with three interceptions to go along with 57 tackles. He began his colllegiate career at Missouri, redshirting during the 2009 season.

Dom Wright is a sophomore wide receiver who saw most of his action as a kick and punt returner. In nine games last season, he averaged 15.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns to rank second on the squad. This season, he has returned six punts for 50 yards (8.3 yards per return), including a career-long 39-yard return Sept. 8 at Southeastern Louisiana.

COACH STIG: John Stiegelmeier has built the South Dakota State University football team into a consistent winner in the ranks of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Overall, Coach Stig has led the Jackrabbits to a 97-73 record (.571 winning percentage). SDSU has posted eight winning seasons in the last 10 years, including six of the school's first eight campaigns at the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level. The Jackrabbits have had a winning record in 11 of Stiegelmeier's 15 full years as head coach, and have a 23-11 record (.676 winning percentage) in Missouri Valley Football Conference games. 

WORKING OVERTIME: SDSU’s 43-36 double-overtime victory at Missouri State last season ended a four-game losing streak in overtime games for the Jackrabbits.

Overall, SDSU is 2-4 in overtime games, with both home contests played on Hobo Day. The Jackrabbits won their inaugural overtime game, 30-27 in two overtimes against Nebraska-Omaha in the 1998 Hobo Day game, then dropped a 46-44, triple-overtime decision to McNeese State (La.) in the 2008 Hobo Day game.

Following is a complete list of SDSU’s overtime games:
1998: SDSU 30, Nebraska-Omaha 27 (2 OT — at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium)
2002: Augustana 39, SDSU 33 (3 OT — at Sioux Falls)
2004: Southern Utah 23, SDSU 17 (2 OT — at Cedar City, Utah)
2007: Western Illinois 29, SDSU 26 (4 OT — at Macomb, Ill.)
2008: McNeese State 46, SDSU 44 (3 OT — at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium)
2011: SDSU 43, Missouri State 36 (2 OT — at Springfield, Mo.)

JACKRABBIT INSIDER: Throughout the 2012 football season, head coach John Stiegelmeier will be a guest on the “Jackrabbit Insider,” a weekly behind-the-scenes look at South Dakota State University athletics.

The half-hour television show which features interviews with Jackrabbit coaches and student-athletes, airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on Sioux Falls-based KTTW FOX 7. The show is also broadcast on FOX Sports North at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and on FOX College Sports Central at select times (check listings). Online, the show can be viewed at

A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will play their first road game in nearly a month, traveling to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for an Oct. 20 matchup with Northern Iowa.

Kickoff for the game is set for 4 p.m. The contest will be televised on Mediacom cable television systems and streamed online at

Courtesy:  South Dakota State University