After rout, Jacks turn attention to Sycamores

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

One game into the season, the Jackrabbit football team already looks in mid-season form.

The Jacks are coming off a 44-6 thrashing of perennial powerhouse Georgia Southern on Sept. 12 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium and now turn their attention to winless Indiana State on Sept. 19.

“I thought we played as well as we’ve ever played in an opener, and I would credit that to the maturity of our senior class leaving nothing to chance,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I thought they did a super job.”

In the win against Georgia Southern, senior Ryan Crawford made his first start at quarterback and did not disappoint. Crawford was 15-of-21 for 180 yards and two scores, both going to Mike Steffen in the second quarter.

“Ryan is a senior. He is part of that senior leadership, that maturity,” Stiegelmeier said. “At that moment the game was moving in slow motion for him. I’m very, very happy with his performance.”

The Jackrabbit defense dominated in the win against the Eagles, sacking quarterbacks Lee Chapple six times and Kyle Collins three times. The Jacks forced four turnovers and held GSU to just 11 rushing yards and 243 yards of total offense.

“Our guys play hard all the time,” Stiegelmeier said. “Turnover-wise we were plus three. I thought we had great pressure on the quarterback.”

While the Jacks dominated the win against the Eagles, Stiegelmeier knows there are things the Jacks still need to work on. The Jacks left points on the field in the first half, failing to take advantage of being deep in Georgia Southern territory and settling for field goals.

“Our offensive coaches were disappointed in a lot of things, just a lot of technique things,” Stiegelmeier said. “Defensively, they have good skill, but our tackling was shabby at best.”

The Jacks will now take on Indiana State on Sept. 19 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in the Beef Bowl. The Sycamores are winless in their three games this season, including a 26-20 setback to NAIA member Quincy, and losers of 29 straight overall. The Jackrabbits downed Indiana State 49-9 last year in Terre Haute, Ind., in the only meeting between the two schools. While there may be a temptation for the Jacks to look past the Sycamores and to Illinois State on Sept. 26, Stiegelmeier does not think that will happen.

“It isn’t about who you are playing, it’s about how good can I be, how good can we be this week,” Stiegelmeier said. “A lot of times when we watch film, we don’t say, ‘We need to knock 97 off the ball.’ We talk about steps and pad level.

“I think with the ultimate goal of the playoffs, we can’t afford to daydream. That is an elite group that gets there. We just can’t afford to think about their record. We haven’t proved anything. We are 1-0.”

The Sycamore offense has struggled to get anything going this year. Darrius Gates leads the team in rushing, averaging 39.7 yards per game with Travis Johnson leading the team with 43.5 yards passing a game. Quarterback Chris Stutzriem is averaging 42 yards per game. Overall, the Sycamores are averaging 151 yards of total offense a game.

The defense has been average for Indiana State, giving up 174.3 yards of rushing per game and 180.7 yards of passing.

The Jacks have a ton of momentum and confidence coming off their season-opening win against Georgia Southern and look to build on it in their game against Indiana State.

“Every day is a day to get better, whether you are a football player or a sports editor,” Stiegelmeier said. “It should really be motivation to try to outperform that last game. True winners are like that. You don’t need somebody to give you a new target. The target should be as good as you can be.”

The Jacks and Sycamores kick off at 6 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.