VERMILLION – The No. 6 South Dakota State Jackrabbits clinched a first-round bye in the FCS Playoffs Saturday after defeating the No. 15 South Dakota Coyotes 31-28.
Despite allowing 583 total yards, it was the defensive unit that led the way for head coach John Stiegelmeier and the Jacks.
One of the biggest plays during the game came in the third quarter when the Jacks did their best brick wall impression on the goal line, stopping the Coyotes at the one-yard line. During that sequence, the Coyotes drove the field 96 yards and just needed one more for a touchdown — but couldn’t manage to punch it in.
The Jacks were led on defense by their star sophomore linebacker, Christian Rozeboom. He had ten total tackles and two tackles for a loss. Rozeboom played a big part in not allowing the Coyotes to find the end zone.
“Just making a play when it comes down to it,” Rozeboom said.
Jordan Brown intercepted USD quarterback Chris Streveler early in the second quarter which led to a Jackrabbit touchdown and control of the momentum. Streveler had thrown only four interceptions prior to today’s contest.
Coming into this game, Streveler was the top quarterback and offensive player in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. It was no different today, as he managed to connect on 69 percent of his passes and threw for 286 yards. He also ran ran for 65 yards, but the Jacks managed to contain Streveler a 15 yard run at most.
Streveler threw the ball to almost all of his receivers. Which is something Coyote fans have seen frequently. Eight Coyotes recorded a catch for USD. The leading receiver for them was Dakari Allen, who found the end zone twice and had 83 receiving yards.
It was important for the Jacks defense to step up, considering the offense wasn’t as efficient as they normally are.
Despite not performing to their averages, the offense still played well enough to win. Taryn Christion overthrew his receivers a few times, but connected on 64 percent of his passes. His lone mistake was an interception on a pass that was intended for Alex Wilde, who was unaware about the pass. He ended the game with 299 passing yards.
Senior wide receiver Jake Wieneke caught two passes, both went for touchdowns. Senior tight end Dallas Goedert had another good showcasing of his talent as he caught 11 passes for 117 yards. None was more impressive than his one-handed circus catch with six minutes remaining in the game on a key third down play.
“I believe that’s my best catch ever,” Goedert said after the game.
On the ground, the Jacks had it going but abandoned it throughout the game. Junior Isaac Wallace had 10 carries for 69 yards and senior Brady Mengarelli had 36 yards on nine carries. However, the only running back who found the end zone for the Jacks was sophomore Mikey Daniel who had four yards on five carries.
It looked initially like it was going to turn out to be a battle of defenses since neither offense could get going in the first quarter, but they exploded in the second quarter combining for a five-minute scoring frenzy which saw the Jacks take a 17-14 lead.
The teams will be going in different directions heading into the playoffs. USD started the season 6-0 looked like real playoff contenders, have now dropped three in a row and four of their last five.
SDSU, started off slow, but have now recorded four consecutive wins over ranked FCS teams.
Both teams will be watching the Selection Show on Sunday in very different manners. The Jacks will watch the show knowing that they will be able to have Thanksgiving with their families, while USD will watch to see if they will sneak into the Playoffs.
It’ll be the second consecutive year that the Jacks will have a bye in the first round. Last season, the Jacks took advantage of their bye with their win over Villanova.
Rozeboom said he’s ready for the selection.
“Big thing is getting that bye and going home for Thanksgiving to see family,” Rozeboom said.
The selection show will air at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19 on ESPNU.