Defense carries Jacks into first road game

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

Coming off back-to-back blow-out wins, the Jackrabbit football team will hit the road for the first of a three-game road trip when they take on Illinois State on Sept. 26. Kickoff between the two teams is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Normal, Ill.

The Jackrabbit defense has been the strong point for the Jacks this season, as they have only given up six points in the two games and have not allowed a team inside their 20-yard line.

“You hear it all preseason: ‘This is the strength of your football team, this is a great player,’ and how often do we go back and research that?” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I think our defense should be playing well. Whether they don’t allow a touchdown or only six points the last two games.

“They have some veterans and great leadership. ? It’s a good situation,” said Stiegelmeier. “I think it is the strength of our football team. We need to play good defense and continue to play good defense with the schedule that we have.”

While the offense has shown flashes of brilliance, it has failed to complete drives at times. In the first halves in the wins against Georgia Southern and Indiana State, the offense has only been able to muster 23 points, while in the second halves they have put up 62 points. In the win against Indiana State on Sept. 19, the Jacks scored on all three of their possessions in the third quarter.

“We moved the ball but just couldn’t convert on third down,” senior wide receiver Mike Steffen said about the win over Indiana State. “The big thing is that we came out a little sluggish. It’s really hard to admit that, but we came out a little sluggish right away.

“I think in the second half we just got in each other’s face and started talking, and we converted on third down,” said Steffen. “That was big.”

The Redbirds are coming off a 38-7 drubbing of Austin Peay for their only win of the young season. Illinois State will be without quarterback Drew Kiel, who tore a ligament in his thumb in the loss to Eastern Illinois on Sept. 3. Matt Brown has started in place of Kiel and has completed 65 percent of his passes, averaging 181 yards a game.

Geno Blow leads the Redbirds on the ground, averaging 46.7 yards per game, while Cliffton Gordon is averaging 35.7 yards per game; Gordon had four rushing touchdowns against Austin Peay.

After the conference matchup with the Redbirds, the Jacks will travel to San Luis Obispo, Calif., to take on Cal Poly on Oct. 3. On Oct. 10, the Jacks return to Missouri Valley Football as they take on Missouri State in Springfield, Mo.

“It’s big being 2-0,” senior defensive back Conrad Kjerstad said. “The last few years we have gotten off to a slow start, which is disappointing.” Kjerstad said the team is going to work really hard this week in practice and start game planning.

“Going into this next game, we want to dominate and set the tone and hopefully get another W.”

#1.881455:185906039.jpg:tracy.jpg:Chris Tracy (38) wraps up Indiana State’s Antoine Brown (33) as Jimmy Rogers (3) moves into assist in the tackle. SDSU beat the Sycamores 41-0 in the Beef Bowl held on Sept. 19. The Jacks held ISU to 90 yards of total offense.:Ethan Swanson