The gridiron Jacks will need to come down from the high of “whipping” the University of Central Arkansas Bears 38-10. Waiting next for the Jacks is Great West Football conference rival Southern Utah The Thunderbirds come to Brookings to take on the Jackrabbits Nov.10. Southern Utah last year lost to SDSU. Last week in their final home game of the season, SU almost defeated GWFC rival Cal Poly 28-21.Southern Utah will look to get its first win of the season against the Jackrabbits.
Let’s breakdown the positions:
Jacks quarterback Ryan Berry has matured very well this 2007 season. As of late, Berry has had the luxury of a great offensive line and better wide receivers to make him look really good. So far this season Berry has had 17 touchdowns, while quarterbacks on the opposing teams only have had seven. So far this season he has a 131.9 passing rating, while averaging 202.8 yards a game. Berry comes into the game with a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio (17-7).
The Thunderbirds benched three-time letter winner and ex-starter Wes Marshall. His replacement is junior Cody Stone. Stone, as the signal caller, has put new energy into the SU offense. A junior college transfer, Stone has been more effective than his senior counterpart who ended his season with a leg injury. Stone on the season has 185 yards a game, while Marshall only has 160 yards a game. Stone comes in with four touchdowns and three interceptions.Advantage: Jackrabbits
Wide Receiver/Tight End
With JaRon Harris being questionable for the game, the Jacks may be without their biggest threat. Harris has double the yards of any receiver -664-with the next closest Jack being Chris Doblar (306 yards). The good news for Berry is that Kyle Minett and Cory Koenig are threats coming out of the backfield with both of them catching double digit passes. The Brookings connection-Chris Doblar and Chris Wagner-have been very effective for the Jacks this season, although both have been known to drop the ball at times.
Southern Utah receivers are not the tallest or the fastest, but according to Cal Poly coaches they strap on their helmets and just play. Jeremy Edwards is a big threat for the Thunderbirds and will be a tough matchup for the Jacks. Edwards has the most yards (467) and is averaging an impressive 18.7 a catch. Nick Miller and Craig Gritton have led SU this season and have put up almost identical numbers and both have averaged 41 yards a game. Advantage: Jackrabbits
Offensive Line and Running Backs
With Koenig and Minett running behind the big and talented offensive line, the holes have been large and numerous. SDSU has almost doubled SU running performance-1466 to 887. As a result the Jacks are averaging 5.2 yards to the Thunderbirds 3.3. Not much of a question here.Advantage: Jackrabbits
Head Coach John Stiegelmeier praised his line for getting after the University of Central Arkansas Bears quarterback Nathan Brown on Nov. 3. He called the defensive line’s sacks “effort sacks” and noted that the guys up front have a lot of heart. Senior lineman Jason Bonwell leads the Jacks with 5.5 sacks along with seven and a half tackles for loss. Mitch Pontrelli, Eric Schroeder and Danny Batten have been giving offensive coordinators headaches the whole season. Southern Utah is just over the double-digit sack mark and has done a halfway decent job this season, but will probably not fare well against SDSU’s offensive line.Advantage: Jackrabbits
Rob Takeno and Robert Bala are the heart and soul of the Southern Utah defense. Takeno has led the Thunderbirds with 63 tackles and Robert Bala has the second most with 53 tackles. TJ Tabatabai rounds out a very good linebacker group. While they have led the team in tackles the linebackers have not had a lot of takeaways. Takeno is the only one to force a fumble, and he also had three fumble recovers for 23 yards. Tabatabai has one recovery on the season. The core has only had four breakups on the season.
The SDSU linebacker core is led by senior linebacker Justin Kubesh, who always seems to make the tackle or be very close to the play. Jimmy Rogers leads the team in solo tackles with 41 and assists tackles with 47. Middle linebacker Chris Johnson rounds out the linebacker core and is third on the team with 78 total tackles on the season. All three have forced a fumble and have recovered three fumbles, with Kubesh picking up two fumbles. Both cores are very talented and this matchup has been the closest competition yet.Advantage: Jackrabbits
Senior defensive back Tyler Koch has more interceptions on the season than Southern Utah has combined. Brock Gentile, Andrew Hoogeveen, Brock Campbell, Adam Fritz and Nash Simet have been very strong as of late. With opponents scoring 15 touchdowns in the air and only three interceptions for the Thunderbirds, the passing attack even without JaRon Harris could make it a long day for the Thunderbirds secondary.Advantage: Jackrabbits
Southern Utah has only kicked eight field goals this season, making only three. Steve Pulver has been pretty good kicking from 48 yards making two of two. From 52 yards Pulver is 1-1 and has not made a field goal since Sept. 22 when the Thunderbirds took on McNeese State. Pulver has missed four kicks in a row. On the season, he has not made a kick of less than 30 yards.
Parker Douglass has been very impressive on the season so far, although he has struggled as of late. After making his first nine consecutive field goal, Douglass has only made one field goal in his last five attempts, with his first missed kick of the season costing the Jacks a potential game winner at Georgia Southern in the closing minutes Oct.6. Adam Monke has been very impressive returning kicks this year; he gave the Jacks an emotional boost when he returned the opening kickoff.Advantage: Jackrabbits
If the Jacks take care of business at home, they should roll easily, beating the Thunderbirds to set up a match against NDSU for the Dakota Marker and the Great West Football Conference title.