After 0-4 start, Jackrabbits season not over afterall

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

Kyle Minett answered one of the dumber questions I have ever asked a student athlete a couple weeks ago.

It was after SDSU lost to Northern Iowa 24-14 Oct. 2, their fourth straight loss that cemented the Jacks’ worst start to a football season since 1969.

“Kyle, do you feel this was your season today?”

It was a terrible question. No player will admit – probably because there is nothing to admit – that a game in early October is their team’s “season.”

But Minett – now second on SDSU’s all-time rushing list – is part of a team which made more than one mention of Frisco, Tex., the site of the Football Championship Subdivision championship game in January.

It might take more than a 0-4 start to the season to reach there. Winning seven games in a row after losing four straight looks nearly impossible.

If Frisco was on the Jacks’ mind at the beginning of the season, certainly they knew a team should win football games in order to still wear football pads with a week left of Christmas break.

“No, we’ve got seven games left,” Minett said, clearly agitated with the question and disheveled by SDSU’s lopsided record.

I thought SDSU’s season was on the line that day. I didn’t know the precedence of 0-4 teams that fight back and make the playoffs; I only knew that it probably wasn’t likely. That’s why I asked. I wanted to know if he was looking at the overall, not the individual game itself. He answered the question the right way.

For the most part, it was an ugly 0-4. SDSU succumbed to Delaware early on and played while wounded emotionally. It was 26-3, but it wasn’t that close.

The Jacks followed that up with a home-opener loss to Illinois State. Even that was more lopsided than the score indicated. Illinois State bolted ahead 24-0 at the end of three quarters, then played cautious in the fourth to avoid anything drastic from happening. SDSU scored two benign touchdowns because of it.

Nebraska was maybe SDSU’s most celebrated loss in program history. And – for the first time all season – trepidation was substituted with optimism. Seniors and captains like Minett and Ryan Mcknight spoke adamantly that they lost, and that was it. Who cares if it was Nebraska. They lost. They blew Nebraska up at the line of scrimmage, they established a solid running attack, they had a couple blown coverages on defense, they had a couple calls go against them, and they lost.

Northern Iowa was too tough of a matchup to beat after a huge emotional investment in the Nebraska game. Ideally, SDSU would have played a home game against an observably less talented team and healed tattered morale with a decisive victory.

But this year’s schedule – like competing in a boxing match with thumbtacks carpeting the canvas – demanded a road game against a ranked opponent. They would resist – even playing with a lead – but ultimately took a shove and landed with a back full of puncture wounds.

They seemed too far away from the platitude of victory to make any mention of a midseason comeback. Maybe they just weren’t very good.

Now, they’re playing with fortitude and a demand for respect while masquerading as a 2-4 team that drops passes and struggles to sack the quarterback. In other words, they’re 2-4 but look capable of beating anyone.

Things don’t look as ominous from here to Nov. 20. SDSU has Hobo Day against Youngstown State, a team they’ve convincingly beaten in the past and, well, it’s Hobo Day. People tend to show up for Hobo Day.

With the momentum they’ve seemed to regenerate, perhaps by no coincidence after a “players only” meeting the day after the Northern Iowa loss, it might not matter who they play. Just get on the bus and the rest will work out.

I wonder if Minett feels the same way.