Jacks down Redbirds, set eyes on Coyotes

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No. 5 South Dakota State pushed their winning streak to four games as they dispatched of the No. 20 Illinois State Redbirds 27-24 in a Missouri Valley Football showdown in overtime.

Chase Vinatieri came through in the clutch for the Jacks as he managed to put a 43-yard field goal through the uprights in overtime. It was the second game-winning score for Vinatieri. The first was against Montana State on the fake field goal. In overtime, the offense didn’t gain a yard. But, that didn’t sneak into Vinatieri’s mind.

“That’s my job, I just want to execute it,” Vinatieri said. “I wasn’t even thinking of the offense at all.”

The win for the Jacks solidified their playoff aspirations, as they now look to be a shoe-in for the playoffs.

It didn’t always come easy for SDSU. For the Jacks, the offense that came into the game averaging 466 yards, struggled to get going against the Redbirds defense. There were many miscues and offensive struggles:

  • Taryn Christion connected on 47 percent of his passes
  • Christion threw two interceptions
  • Six penalties for 45 yards
  • Just 17 first downs
  • Taryn Christion sacked twice

But like every other good team, the Jacks managed to overcome the setbacks that they created for themselves. Head coach John Stiegelmeier said the Jacks dealt with difficulties.

“I was disappointed in some penalties, some turnovers,” Stiegelmeier said. “I thought we handled adversity well.”

Christion took charge of the Jacks on the ground, with 125 yards on nine carries, including his longest touchdown run of his career, which went for 84 yards. It was the only regulation score the Jacks had after the Illinois State kick return.

“I just knew I was going to have a chance to score,” Christion said. “We were struggling a bit.”

The tandem of Jake Wieneke and Dallas Goedert was held in check by the Redbirds, for the most part. The lone score for the duo was a 33-yard touchdown reception by Goedert, which was also his only catch. Wieneke went for 53 yards on five catches.

The biggest play for the Redbirds was a 100-yard kickoff return by Christian Uphoff, which sucked all the energy out of Dana J. Dykhouse and the record-low 9,458 fans.

“It was a huge play by another freshman,” said Illinois State head coach Brock Spack. “He did everything wrong, by the way, and still scored.”

Illinois State was led by their second-string, run-first quarterback, Malachi Broadnax, who tore apart the Jackrabbit defense to a tune of 90 rushing yards and 102 passing yards. Spack chose to start the redshirt freshman over the junior veteran, Jake Kolbe, who struggled in recent weeks.

“I thought he was OK,” Spack said of Broadnax, who was 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards. “I don’t know if he was outstanding.”

The Jacks prepared for Kolbe to start for the Redbirds, who throws the ball much more than Broadnax and can’t make plays happen on his feet like the redshirt freshman.

“I personally didn’t,” Kellen Soulek said if he knew of the starting quarterback. “That was a good game plan.”

It wasn’t just the passing game for the Redbirds that created problems for the Jacks. On the ground, the Redbirds managed 215 yards on 47 attempts. James Robinson went for 86 yards on 15 rushes and found the end zone twice. Markel Smith had 10 carries for 65 yards.

On defense, the Jacks were led by Christian Rozeboom, yet again. Who had two tackles for a loss and a sack, including 10 tackles. Ryan Earith had two sacks, while Soulek also contributed a sack.

For South Dakota State, this win marks their third straight over a ranked opponent, which after the Northern Iowa Hobo Day loss, looked like this four-game stretch would give Stiegelmeier and the Jacks fits. It hasn’t. If anything, it has shown that the Jacks are championship contenders.

This win, though, will take some pressure off of the Jacks next week as they are pretty certain to make the playoffs.

“It’s really easy — for 21 years, we have said the same thing,” Stiegelmeier said. “1-0.”

For the Jacks to go 1-0, they will face in-state rivals, the South Dakota Coyotes, in Vermillion, who haven’t beaten the Jacks since making the switch to FCS. The Coyotes will be coming off of a resounding 49-14 loss to North Dakota State.

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