Missouri Valley Conference play begins for the No. 4 South Dakota State Jackrabbits this weekend when they travel to Youngstown, Ohio to take on the No. 5 Youngstown State Penguins.
YSU (2-1) will be coming off a 59-9 thrashing over Central Connecticut State. The lone loss for the Penguins this year was against Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Pittsburgh, who they fell to 28-21 in overtime.
The Jacks will be coming off a bye week, healthy and prepared for the Missouri Valley Conference play to start.
“I feel great, I think we are going to be rested, I know we are going to be better, the only concern is how fast you get game ready,” Stiegelmeier said.
It will be a classic battle of a strong offense versus a strong defense. SDSU has the eighth-best scoring offense in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) and YSU the fifth-best scoring defense in the FCS.
The Jackrabbit offense isn’t one for intimidation, in fact players are viewing this week as a challenge and are ready to conquer it.
“There’s no concern, we are a confident group and we know that we can move the ball,” junior quarterback Taryn Christion said.
Christion averages 235 yards through the air. Senior tight end Dallas Goedert averages 70 yards per game and senior wide receiver Jake Wieneke is averaging 57.7 yards on the game.
The Penguins are led on defense by junior defensive end Justus Reed, who sacked the opposing quarterback four times in just three games this season.
“They [SDSU’s offensive line] have to know where their help is coming from and then block their tail off. Those guys are good — they already have ten sacks in three games,” Stiegelmeier said.
YSU’s defense that hasn’t allowed passing offenses to hurt them this season as they are allowing an average of 111 yards per contest.
On offense, the Penguins are led by a two-quarterback system as they have both Hunter Wells and Nathan Mays. Wells suffered a separated shoulder against Robert Morris Sept. 9, but should be active against the Jackrabbits.
YSU also has a multi-running back system led by junior Tevin McCaster and freshman Christian Turner. The duo of McCaster and Turner combined are averaging a total of 157 yards per game, which is almost what South Dakota State averages as a team.
Turner is also a viable option as a receiver for the Penguins, as their leading receiver, averaging 58 yards per game.
“They really use him [Turner] uniquely in the pass game. He’s averaging 20 yards receiving per game, when Wells is in there he looks you off, looks you off and then finds the open guys,” Stiegelmeier said.
South Dakota State will be healthier this week after battled injuries throughout the season.
“I think we are ready and we will be healthy, Kellen (Soulek), Noah Urbanek and, ideally, Tyler Weir will be ready to go,” Stiegelmeier said.
He said having eight freshmen playing in the first Missouri Valley game will be tough.
“With those young guys, it’s going to be a unique stadium. They will have 18,000 to 19,000 people there and you need to be mentally tough not to miss a beat,” Stiegelmeier said.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. central time. The game will be on ESPN3 and the Jackrabbit Sports Network.