South Dakota State football wanted to be one of the top eight teams to get a bye during the playoffs. After their 38-18 Hobo Day defeat at the hands of the unranked Northern Iowa, that goal will be a lot tougher to achieve.
Head coach John Stiegelmeier said the team can still achieve it, but it starts with him.
“I accept the challenge to get them back to where we think we can be,” Stiegelmeier said.
SDSU (4-2, 1-2) will travel to Springfield, Missouri, to take on the Missouri State Bears (1-5, 0-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Bears will also be coming off of a defeat, as they dropped to the Western Illinois Leathernecks 49-30.
“There’s an emphasis to get back on how we played the first five games, because this last game we were horrendous and we got worse when the game went on,” Stiegelmeier said.
UNI dominated SDSU in almost every phase of the game, but especially on the ground as they were outgained 218 yards to 52 yards. Part of the reason the Panthers racked up so many yards were missed tackles.
“Everyone has their one-eleventh on defense, and we need to execute that and make one-on-one tackles,” said defensive tackle Kellen Soulek.
The Jacks face a different kind of running game this week as the Bears use an option attack.
I accept the challenge to get them back to where we think we can be.
Running back Calan Crowder leads MSU with four touchdowns and 377 yards. Quarterback Peyton Huslig has also made an impact as he managed to gain 156 yards on the ground during the season.
“Ideally, we will get him [Huslig] into long passing yards where we won’t have to worry about the option,” Stiegelmeier said.
One bright spot against UNI was the SDSU defense holding standout receiver Daurice Fountain in check, as he only went for 74 yards on four receptions.
The Jacks secondary will face a tough task again this week in senior Malik Earl, who is one of the best receivers in the MVFC. Earl has the third-most receiving yards in the conference and averages six catches per game, but only has two touchdowns on the year. Last year, against the Jacks, Earl had a good game with two catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Huslig has thrown for the seventh-most yards in the MVFC this year, which is about middle of the pack, but has thrown eight interceptions and completed 60 percent of his passes. Stiegelmeier said Huslig’s is hard to contain, but it is possible.
“You have to make sure that you are there and you try to tackle him because he is very skilled and you have to defend the pass. You can’t get caught up in play action and give him an easy one,” Stiegelmeier said.
One way the SDSU defense can stop Huslig is if they get pressure on him. The Bears have given up 17 sacks this season, so Jacks should be able to do that.
The SDSU offense matches up well with the MSU defense, especially in the passing game. The Bears give up 294 yards per game through the air.
SDSU senior wide receiver Jake Wieneke and senior tight end Dallas Goedert have struggled as of late. If the Jacks can get them going this week, it could prove costly against the Bears.
Goedert said SDSU doesn’t want to overlook the Bears because of their stats, but thinks the Jacks have an opportunity to do well.
“They have had a couple games where they played bad, like against Missouri, and they allowed 800 yards, so that obviously skews their stats,” Goedert said. “They are a good team in the Missouri Valley, it’s not a gimmie game but we are going to go out there and dominate as best we can.”