Jacks not ready to quit just yet

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor

In the Missouri Valley Football Conference, your team better come to play every single week. SDSU did not in their first two games.

Losses at home to Illinois State and in Cedar Falls to Northern Iowa hurt the Jackrabbits early and despite rattling off three conference wins in a row, SDSU was facing an uphill battle and succumbed to upstart Indiana State.

With the playoffs dashed two weeks ago in Terre Haute, the question now is: What does the SDSU football team have to play for?

Saturday’s 31-10 victory over Missouri State showed that there is still some sort of life left in the Jackrabbits for the season.

For the offense, the offensive line opened large holes all day for Kyle Minett and Tyler Duffy and protected Thomas O’Brien in the pocket. The “fat guys” (Coach Stiegelmeier’s words) helped the Jackrabbits do exactly what should have done to the worst statistical defense in the FCS.

The defense made some critical stops in the second half, the biggest being Mike Lien halting Bears quarterback Cody Kirby a yard short on fourth and 10 after Kirby scrambled. MSU, who trailed by six, had mounted a drive to open the second half and was deep in Jackrabbit territory before SDSU made a stand.

It was a stand that was nowhere to be found against the Sycamores the week before, as Indiana State ran wild over the Jackrabbit defense, scoring at will and moving the ball with ease. The Jackrabbits also saw their secondary excel behind the play of Cole Brodie and Anthony Wise.

This was supposed to be a high-scoring affair with MSU averaging 38 points a game. Bears head coach Terry Allen admitted the Jacks were the first to really shut them down.

It has been a topsy-turvy season for the defense. One week they are dominant and the next week they are dreadful. On the other hand, it’s not fair to put the troubles all on the defense because the offense has struggled to shoulder their load this season too. The unit was non-existent for most of the first four games, scoring a total of 34 points in those losses.

Coming back from a 0-4 start to make the playoffs has never been done in the MVFC and for good reason. Somebody in the conference is going to expose your weaknesses. Illinois State marched all over the Jacks and UNI powered the ball past SDSU. It is difficult enough to run through any conference without losing a game or two, let alone the Valley, where parity is the rule. The Jacks dropped two in conference play before they discovered their formula for winning football.

SDSU does have incentive to win the last two games. Recruiting does come to mind, as a 6-5 record and winning season looks more appealing than 5-6 or 4-7. A win over NDSU would also give the Jacks a winning record in the MVFC, which is an accomplishment.

Saturday’s Dakota Marker game against North Dakota State is a winnable game but the Bison are always a tough match up in the FargoDome. NDSU is still in the playoff hunt and the Jacks can play the spoiler role. Coach John Stiegelmeier says that SDSU is the most consistent team in the country in the fact that the focus from week-to-week never changes, but will have to prepare for the noise in the building. Nevertheless, the Georgia native Brodie shed some light on the match up.

“It’s not about the Marker, it’s more about pride, respect and bragging rights. You know, I’m not from around here but I’ve grown into this family here, so I feel the same way everyone else does.”

The Nov. 20 home finale against North Dakota should be a fun meeting between two former North Central Conference foes and could end the post-Hobo Day syndrome that has plagued attendance. However, the Fighting Sioux have struggled this season and the Jackrabbits should be able to handle UND, if SDSU comes to play.

SDSU may not have the playoffs to fight for, but if they have any pride at all, they’ll be battling hard to finish with a winning season, a goal that is certainly attainable.