One week before going head-to-head with the number-one team in the country, South Dakota State gets a look at one of the most improved teams in FCS as they head into week three of Missouri Valley Conference play with a game at Indiana State, Saturday (October 19).

The Sycamores (3-3/1-1 MVFC) have enjoyed one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation over the past couple of seasons. Indiana State was winless in head coach Curt Mallory's first season in 2017, but finished 7-4 last season and just narrowly missed out on a berth in the FCS Playoffs.

South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelemeier told me Coach Mallory deserves all of the credit:

Offensively the Sycamores have great talent in the skill positions with running back Peterson Kerlegrand averaging 90 yards per game while wide receivers Dante Hendrix and Rontez Morgan are threats on the outside. Hendrix's 26 catches lead ISU's offense, while Morgan had a big game against the Jackrabbit defense last season in Brookings.

Indiana State has been beaten up at the quarterback position with starter Ryan Boyle out for the season with an injury he suffered in week four. His backup, redshirt sophomore Gunnar See went down in the first half of last week's game against Western Illinois, leaving redshirt sophomore Kurtis Wilderman as the starter against SDSU after throwing for two scores in the second half last week

Stiegelmeier says regardless of who is starting at quarterback, his defense will be tested:

On defense, the Sycamores are led by two of the top linebackers in the Valley.

Clayton Glasco is the reigning defensive player of the week in the conference after ten tackles and two sacks last week, while Jonas Griffith had 18 tackles at SDSU last year.

Stiegelmeier says Griffith is a difference maker:

Kickoff is scheduled for noon in Terre Haute, Indiana, Saturday. The Jackrabbits are back home next Saturday (October 26) when they host top-ranked North Dakota State at 2:00 PM.

Last Saturday (October 12), the Jackrabbits (5-1/2-0 MVFC) stayed unbeaten in the conference with a 38-28 win at 17th ranked Youngstown State, rallying from a second-half deficit for the second straight week.

In the first half, the Jackrabbits shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with eight penalties for 90 yards while the Penguin defense kept SDSU out of the end zone thanks to great pressure upfront with sacks, batted down passes, and limited running opportunities.

Stiegelemier says Bo Pelini's team dialed up the right schemes in the first 30 minutes:

Trailing 14-3 in the third quarter, the Jackrabbit defense went to work, first with a Don Gardner pick-six and later with a DyShawn Gales interception and sacks from Ryan Earith and Reece Winkleman.

Stiegelmeier says the defensive score was a game-changer:

The SDSU defense helped jump-start the offense which benefitted from a Youngstown penalty to extend one touchdown drive and then got an 81-yard scoring strike from J'Bore Gibbs to Cade Johnson and later some key third-down conversions, including a Gibbs 63-yard scoring run on third down to seal the win.

Stiegelmeier says the halftime adjustments made by the Jackrabbits paid off in the second half: