Drue Aman Sports Editor
The regular season ends Nov. 20, and SDSU (4-5,4-3) looked far from ready to quit early Saturday.
One week after a track and field-like performance from Indiana State pitted against the Jacks defensive unit, several players turned in performances filling up the stat sheet along with holding Missouri State (4-5, 3-3) to its lowest point total this season. Those performances led to a 31-10 win for SDSU at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium Nov. 6, in front of 7,724 fans now hoping for a winning season if not a playoff bid.
“Our defensive line played lights out,” said senior cornerback Cole Brodie, whose fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown sealed the outcome of the game. “Their quarterback had people in his face every time, and it made us guys in the secondary’s job real easy.”
That pressure from the line led to two SDSU interceptions, nearly equaling Bears quarterback Cody Kirby season total of only three. Derek Domino’s deflection of a Kirby pass at the SDSU 10-yard line was snared by the hands of linebacker Mike Lien, who returned the ball 28 yards and stopped a Missouri State drive and maintained the Jacks 16-10 advantage in the second quarter.
“I think it just comes with not thinking about it, I think that’s the biggest thing,” Lien said when asked about a defense’s mentality about forcing physical play.
It wasn’t just Lien’s interception that helped stave off a Missouri State comeback. The Bears got the ball coming out of halftime and were embattled in a 10-play drive, culminating in a Kirby scramble out of the pocket only to be stopped by Lien close to the left sideline, a half-yard short of the first down. That play resulted in a turnover on downs at the SDSU 29-yard line, the closest Missouri State would get to the endzone the rest of the game.
“It always makes you nervous when that quarterback rolls out,” Lien said. “You don’t know the breaking point of when you should go break off of your coverage man … I made the right decision, I think.”
The Jacks scored 15 more points after that play while holding Missouri State – averaging 38 points a game entering the conference matchup – behind a steady rushing attack and an economical passing game from quarterback Thomas O’Brien. Converting 9-of-16 third down opportunities extended drives and kept the Bears’ potent offense from getting back on the field, not that it seemed to matter – SDSU’s secondary had eight pass breakups and contained Kirby to just 15-of-37 passing for 167 yards.
“You can look back and say “It would have been nice if this would have happened or that would have happened’ but it’s over and done with,” said senior runningback Kyle Minett, who eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the eighth straight game. “We’re trying to make the best with what we have left.”
What they have left is two games against regional opponents, NDSU and UND. With wins over the Bison – the Dakota Marker game – and the Fighting Sioux, the Jacks would secure its ninth straight winning season.
“Of course we’re going to prepare this week like we always do,” Brodie said. ” I guarantee there’s something in the back of our minds, it’s about pride and respect and bragging rights.”
#1.1766733:2841030345.jpg:Football Ethan Swanson 2.jpg::Collegian Photo by Ethan Swanson