SDSU offense comes alive, avoids worst start in program history

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

A defensive effort nothing short of stifling looked like the only way SDSU could win a game this season.

SDSU’s offense changed that on Saturday.

The Jacks (1-4,1-2) dashed for four touchdowns in the second half – equaling their total touchdown output in four complete games – and got a crucial and bizarre sack from safety Corey Jeske on the last drive of the game that capped off SDSU’s 33-29 win over No. 20 Western Illinois Saturday.

It was a second half offensive onslaught and the Jeske sack of Leathernecks quarterback Matt Barr that prevented an 0-5 start and the worst beginning to a season in program history.

“We did what we had to do to win the football game,” said Jacks head coach John Stiegelmeier, now 1-2 in conference play and only a game behind Western Illinois, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois for the conference lead. “Ideally we shouldn’t have had to do that, but Matt Barr is a great football player.”

It was Barr that orchestrated scoring drives seemingly at will for the Leathernecks, amassing 382 total yards and tossing four touchdown passes.

“Everybody on our sideline believed we were going to win that football game,” Barr said about the team’s demeanor before their last drive, stalled by the Jacks at the Western Illinois 32-yard line, ending the game. “It came down to a ball in the end zone – can’t ask for much more.”

The Jacks reversed a few statistical anomalies besides breaking through in the win column. They scored in the first half for the first time all season, scored each time they reached the red zone (a place they failed to score numerous times against Northern Iowa), and committed no turnovers via interception.

“I think we’re just getting more comfortable,” said sophomore quarterback Thomas O’Brien, who set a season high in completion percentage along with a clean uniform at game’s end because of a pressure retardant offensive line.

“I think I got hit one time,” O’Brien said.

It was the third consecutive game in which the Jacks front line held their opponent without a sack.

“The fat guys did a great job, a great job,” Stiegelmeier said of the team’s pass protection. “Our tight ends did a great job … that’s a good defense (Western Illinois) and our guys did a nice job.”

All sides of the ball were not without flaws. Despite averaging 45 yards per punt from Dean Priddy and getting a key 35-yard punt return from Cole Brodie setting up the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, SDSU’s special teams botched a field goal snap to end the first half. An extra point attempt after SDSU’s first touchdown in the fourth quarter was also failed and kept the Leathernecks lead at 21-20.

The defense allowed 542 yards of total offense, including allowing two receiver to accrue 10 passes for over 100 yards. And the offense – though almost equaling its total scoring on the whole season on Saturday – had an uncharacteristic lost fumble from senior Kyle Minett for the second consecutive week.

Minett’s 143 rushing yards – the fourth game in a row the Ruthon, Minn. native eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark – and three rushing touchdowns erased the early gaffe that concerned the 11,353 fans at the 44th annual Beef Bowl. Minett was named MVP of the annual contest for the second time in his career.

“Obviously, their runningback (Minett) is a stud,” Leathernecks linebacker Kyle Glazier said of the Walter Payton award candidate. “He was running all over us tonight.”

Minett was Minett, rushing for over 100 yards for the 18th time in his career, O’Brien was efficient and refrained from ill-advised throws, and a survivalist’s performance form the defense were just enough to get a win for the Jacks. A win they needed to exhilarate themselves after a players-only meeting early in the week.

“It’s not really explainable,” Jeske said of the team’s emotions following the win. “If you would have seen the locker room, that would explain everything.”

#1.1690873:313050504.jpg:01FootballRyanRobinson.jpg::Collegian Photo by Ryan Robinson#1.1690879:1285431165.jpg:04FootballRyanRobinson.jpg:The Jackrabbits offense huddles during the second quarter Saturday. SDSU would score on the drive, their first points they would score in the first half this season.:Collegian Photo by Ryan Robinson#1.1690881:3910504307.jpg:05FootballRyanRobinson.jpg:Kyle Minett breaks away from the Leathernecks defense Saturday. Minett rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns on his way to being named MVP of the 44th annual Beef Bowl.:Collegian Photo by Ryan Robinson