Jacks’ ‘good year’ comes to end in Fargo

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

The Jacks finished their season with a heartbreaking loss to the North Dakota State Bison, 41-28. The Jackrabbit football team finished the season with a Great West Football Conference record of 3-1 and an overall record of 7-4. They finished second in the Great West, their highest-ever finish. At the beginning of the season, the Jacks were picked to finish fourth, but managed to finish higher than two teams picked ahead of them.

After starting the season 0-3 for the first time since 1969, including a loss to Division-III University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the Jacks completely turned their season around. The Jacks rolled to seven consecutive victories during the middle of the season to equal their longest winning streak in more than 40 years.

The Jacks accomplished many feats this season, including some school firsts. The team was ranked for the first time ever in Division I-AA, and finished the season as the No. 21 team. The team was also named Division I-AA team of the week by the Sporting News. The Jacks defeated a Division I-AA top-10 team, and won back-to-back games by one point.

Other accomplishments for this season’s team include the most overall wins and most road wins since 1999. Running back Anthony Watson moved into second place on the all-time rushing list, and place kicker Parker Douglass added to his school records, giving him a total of 14.

“It was a good year,” said Head Coach John Stiegelmeier. “We did some really special things.”

Stiegelmeier acknowledged the season ended in disappointment with the loss the NDSU and the team finishing second in the conference, but it does not take away from the season as a whole.

“Our players proved we are moving ahead as a (Division) I-AA program,” he said. “We’re proud of the fact we finished 21st.”

The Jacks ranked 15th in the I-AA power rankings.

“When one poll tells us we’re a top-15 program, you take some pride in that,” Stiegelmeier said.

The season had many memorable moments for players and fans. Stiegelmeier said the three games he saw as memory-makers were the McNeese State, California Polytechnic University and University of California-Davis comeback victories.

“It was a rewarding year. Every year is rewarding, but this year in a different way because we started out 0-3 … We stayed the course. We believed in each other,” Stiegelmeier said.

He said the way the team responded will last longer than any piece of paper saying the Jacks finished the season 21st in the polls.

The Jacks now need to continue the momentum of this season to build the SDSU football program into one of the top programs in the nation.

Stiegelmeier said that beginning in spring ball and in the winter workouts, the coaches will send the message that after next season, the team can compete for a national championship.

He said the team may have qualified for the playoffs had they been eligible this season, but the team needs to work to improve.

“We need to leave no doubt in people’s minds. We need to beat NDSU, La Crosse and UNI at their place,” said Stiegelmeier.

He said the team needs to set their mentality that come 2008, they belong in the playoffs and can compete for a national championship.

With a solid 2006 campaign under their belts, the Jacks are well on their way to leaving no doubt in people’s minds they will be a force by 2008.

#1.883937:1002725368.jpg:sdsuvsndsu02.jpg:Jeff Hegge and Scott Breyfogle of South Dakota State bring down Jerimiah Wurzbacher of North Dakota State to stop him from getting a first down during their game Nov. 18.:#1.883936:2086937896.jpg:sdsuvsndsu01.jpg:JaRon Harris looks upfield for a safe route to gain yardage during the game against North Dakota State at the Fargodome.: