Jackrabbits’ playoff position at stake in Vermillion game

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Another rivalry game is coming up for the No. 5 South Dakota State Jackrabbits. They will travel to Vermillion to take on the No. 16 University of South Dakota Coyotes in what might be the biggest game in the South Dakota Showdown Series history.

SDSU will be coming off a 27-24 overtime victory against Illinois State. Things didn’t fare so well for the Coyotes last week. They got routed 49-14 by North Dakota State.

Right now ,the Jacks are in position to get a bye in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs if they win.

“It’s a game that has big playoff aspirations. If we want to be where we want to be, we have to win, and if they want to be where they want to be, they have to win,” said junior quarterback Taryn Christion.

The Coyotes started out the season with five-straight wins, but have started to struggle, dropping three of their last four games. But the Coyotes are 4-0 at the DakotaDome this season.

The Jacks will practice with noise piped into the practice facilities, said head coach John Stiegelmeier.

“First time in a number of years it will be a sellout,” Stiegelmeier said. “Obviously the noise will be intense.”

USD and SDSU have the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked offenses in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, so this matchup has the potential to be a high-scoring affair.

“I hope not, I don’t think that’s the way football should be played,” Stiegelmeier said. “(But) there’s a possibility, because the offenses are so highly ranked, not just in the conference, but in the nation.”

Senior quarterback Chris Streveler, a former Minnesota Golden Gopher, leads the Coyotes in just about every single offensive statistic. He has shown he can scramble effectively against opposing defenses, and as a result, is the leading rusher for USD and has accumulated 3,520 yards of total offense.

Thanks to Streveler, the Coyotes have the top passing attack in the Valley, and the eighth-best in all of the FCS.

“Really, we just need to contain Streveler,” said senior defensive tackle Kellen Soulek.

Stiegelmeier said they won’t be able to stop Streveler, but the Jacks’ defense needs to find ways to stop the rest of the Coyotes.

The Jacks defense struggled against Illinois State’s quarterback, Malachi Broadnax, as he ran for 90 yards against SDSU. Stiegelmeier said the Jacks just have to be in the right places.

“You have to guess at the right time, and hope he [Streveler] doesn’t make all perfect decisions,” Stiegelmeier said.

For the Coyotes, they have a diverse receiving corps. USD has 10 different receivers that have gone over 100 yards this season.

The leading receivers for the Coyotes are Shamar Jackson and Brandt Van Roekel, but Streveler and USD do not just target one receiver.

“They spread it out pretty well. They have a lot of receivers who make difficult catches,” Stiegelmeier said.

The Jacks have the third-best passing defense in the Valley and are only allowing 190 yards per game.

Since the 38-18 blowout loss against Northern Iowa, the Jacks’ defense has clamped down. Through the past four games, the Jacks are allowing 25 points on average, and are coming off a game in which they only allowed 102 passing yards to the Illinois State Redbirds.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Coyotes are not as dominate, especially through the air where USD allows 240 yards. Against the run, USD is a little better, as they are only allowing 142 yards.

South Dakota is led on defense by sophomore defensive lineman Darin Greenfield, who has thrashed MVFC offenses so far this year. Greenfield is tied for eighth in the most tackles for loss in all of the FCS, with 16.5 on the year.  The sophomore has been in on 44 tackles on the year and six sacks.

Another defensive standout for the Coyotes is freshman Phillip Powell, who has three interceptions on the year, including one he ran back for a touchdown.

Stiegelmeier said he’s worried about the amount of times the South Dakota defense blitzes and how active they are. Taryn Christion has the mobility to make plays happen as the junior has displayed in front of Jacks fans so many times.

The USD and SDSU game will be underway at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18 in Vermillion. The game will be televised on ESPN3 and Midco.

“They will be ready to play. We need to be ready to play,” Stiegelmeier said.

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