Preparing for Blue Hens

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

There seems to contain an innumerable amount of questions around the upcoming football season. “Can SDSU repeat another successful regular season?’ seems to be the unofficial theme amongst anyone not in the Jacks’ locker room and on the sidelines.

The first weekly challenge and a microcosm of how “quality” the 2010 Jackrabbits football team will perform ends against No. 16 Delaware Saturday, their first trip to face a Colonial Athletic Association opponent.

Delaware is a name more prominent in the Football Championship Subdivision than the still-young, No.9 ranked Jacks. They played in the playoff championship game in 2007 with now-Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, losing to Appalachian State. Appalachian State completed one of the biggest upsets in recent college football history over the Michigan Wolverines that same year. Delaware has made the playoffs three times in the past nine years under head coach K.C. Keeler. The Jacks are coming off of their best season in 30 years and made its inaugural playoff game last November against Montana.

Delaware has already played a game this season, beating West Chester 31-0 at home while SDSU has only played a night scrimmage Sept. 3.

“You can’t worry about that, you just have to prepare,” Jacks head coach John Stiegelmeier said about the scheduling disparity between the two teams. “I’d prefer an FCS opponent, at home, last weekend.”

The delayed start to the season – which also happened in 2009 when SDSU beat Georgia Southern 44-6 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium on Sept. 12 – only means more practice, more eagerness.

“We’re sick of hitting each other,” said senior runningback and all-conference selection Kyle Minett. “We want to hit somebody else now.”

The keys to winning against Delaware will cener squarely around containing the Fightin’ Blue Hens quarterback Pat Devlin, a versatile and athletic passer considered a pro prospect and a highly touted transfer player from Penn State. The 6-4 senior won the starting quarterback job last season and passed for over 2,500 yards in his first season of eligibility.

“They’re gonna be sophisticated in the passing game and put a lot of freedom in his hands, not pressure, to make checks and attack your defense,” Stiegelmeier said about the Blue Hens’ offensive style.

Conversely, SDSU will rely on sophomore quarterback and returning Missouri Valley All-Newcomer member Thomas O’Brien, coming back from a season in which he threw for 1,448 yards and became the full-time starter for the final three games of the season. O’Brien returns as the opening-game starter with a different offensive line, minus senior starters and key contributors Casey Bender and Casey Knips from last season.

“The four months, from the spring till now, taking the responsibility of leadership and stuff – I think its helped a lot,” said O’Brien of his active offseason. “Just being comfortable has allowed me to focus on leadership – focus on all those details and stuff.”

SDSU enters the contest 9-20 against ranked opponents since joining the FCS, going 1-3 last season against Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Cal Poly and Montana, respectively. This season, three teams are on SDSU’s schedule that were ranked in the preseason, beginning with Delaware.

One other thing that gets lost in this whole thing … they’re conference is elite and so is ours,” said Stiegelmeier. “It’s kind of like the CAA vs. The Missouri Valley; let’s see if we can hold up our part of the bargain here as a Missouri Valley team.”

#1.1573334:623853322.jpg:Starting tight end Colin Cochart runs downfield during a practice last week.:Starting tight end Colin Cochart runs downfield during a practice last week.:COLLEGIAN PHOTO BY AARON STONEBERGER