SDSU struggles are season?s story

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor


It seems to be the only word that comes to mind. SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier uttered the word numerous times during the postgame press conference. The word was probably said thousands of times by Jackrabbit fans after SDSU dropped a 31-24 decision at the hands of the North Dakota State Bison.

Missed opportunities and game-changing mistakes really are all people could think about as they ventured back south on I-29 after the game.

It’s not that SDSU lost the game that drives the fan crazy, but how the game was lost.

The Jacks saw mistakes of all sorts plague them in Fargo. SDSU had eight penalties, a few of them being personal fouls that kept NDSU drives alive. Others were false starts and mental errors that really should be out of the system by Game 10 of the season.

They also struggled mightily to protect Thomas O’Brien in the pocket and struggled to match the physicality that NDSU brought in the opening minutes.

Down a touchdown with four minutes to go, SDSU kicked the ball back to NDSU following a Peter Reifenrath 43-yard field goal. The Jackrabbit run defense, which had been reasonably stout for most of the game, couldn’t find a way to stop Bison running-back D.J. McNorton and NDSU ran out the clock.

SDSU turned the ball over four times, all four via interceptions. Two of those interceptions were brought back for touchdowns. 17 of the Bison points came off of turnovers. It’s one thing to lose the Dakota Marker to NDSU; it’s another to hand it to the Bison.

NDSU is a good team and outplayed the Jackrabbits. However, the turnovers by SDSU makes it feel like the game was worse than the seven point margin the game ended with.

Really, the game seemed to be a microcosm of the season.

One week, SDSU looks solid on offense and makes plays on defense and the very next week, the Jacks are sloppy in all three phases of the game and play poorly.

The Jekyll and Hyde approach to football is likely not going to win many games.

In retrospect, the No. 9 preseason ranking may have been a little high and the aspirations of making it to the National Championship game might have been farfetched, but they were goals nonetheless. SDSU had an absolute buzz saw of a schedule, whether they admit it or not. But it would be hard to say that the Jacks have met any of their expectations, now sitting at 4-6 with one game left.

For the seniors, it will be tough to go out like this. They are quality players who brought a lot to the squad and likely didn’t envision their season ending like this. The players who will be back in 2011 and beyond must learn from the lessons during this tough season. If this down year leads to a more mature and developed squad next season, SDSU will be far better off.

I have no doubt the Jackrabbits will play hard on Nov. 20 against North Dakota. However, the questions about this team turn to next fall, when SDSU hits the field with a much-needed clean slate.