Triumphant in return

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

Returning home after a four-week road trip, the Jackrabbits won for the third time in as many weeks. In front of a Beef Bowl record crowd of 12,332, the Jacks defeated the University of Central Arkansas Bears, 20-7.

The Jacks were ready to play again at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, and to have fans cheering for them, instead of against them.

“(It) feels good when you have 12,000 people rooting for you instead of 15,000 people rooting against you,” said quarterback Andy Kardoes.

Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said he appreciates the fan support.

“When we walk out of that locker room and see that type of fan support, it is an unbelievable boost for the Jackrabbits,” he said.

The Jackrabbit passing attack has been improving throughout the season, and Stiegelmeier credits the success to the health of Kardoes.

“His legs are healthy. We’re seeing the Andy Kardoes that we all knew was there … What a competitor,” he said.

Kardoes connected with wide receiver Micah Johnson for a team-high six receptions and 98 yards.

“Micah just gets open and you throw it to whoever is open,” said Kardoes, who finished with 15 completions and 162 yards.

Even though the offense put up 20 points, the story of the game for the Jacks was their defense. The Bears were unable to effectively run the ball against the Jacks’ defense. SDSU held UCA to negative 16 yards rushing for the game.

“(Stopping the run) started out with our defensive line. I don’t know if you can call it dominating, but really securing the line of scrimmage,” said Stiegelmeier.

He expects the defensive line to play that way because “they are good football players. They play hard.”

Defensive lineman Eric Schroeder said the team made some adjustments at halftime to fix some of the problems the Jacks had in the first half.

Linebacker Andrew Hoogeveen said, “Everything seemed to work out alright for us.”

The Jacks sacked Bears’ quarterback Nathan Brown five times, while racking up a total of seven tackles for a loss. The defense forced two Bears’ turnovers. Hoogeveen forced a fumble, and linebacker Justin Kubesh intercepted his second pass of the season.

The Jacks have significantly turned around their season, after opening with three consecutive losses, including one loss to Division-II foe University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“I think after our third loss to Northern Iowa we became a better team. I know defensively and offensively, we were two teams, then we became one team. We were a lot closer and tighter, which was really nice in these tough games. You kind of rely on each other,” said Schroeder.

Stiegelmeier agreed the Northern Iowa game was the turning point.

“We had a disappointing start to the season … we played some pretty good football in Northern Iowa. I think you could see a difference in our football team there … I think it has been a maturing of our football program.”

Johnson attributes the turnaround to the Jacks deciding to show up and play.

“I think we’re a good team. We just need to decide that we’re going to play … when we decide we’re going to play, we’re a great team and we’ve been getting it done the last three weeks. That first loss was pretty hard for us, but we finally got over that hump and started winning. I think we just decided to start playing,” he said.

The Jacks have a bye week this upcoming weekend, and Stiegelmeier believes it comes at the right time.

“I think the bye week comes at a perfect time. We’ve got some guys that are beat up,” he said.

The next action for the Jacks is the conference opener versus Cal-Poly on Oct. 21. The Jacks look to keep their winning streak rolling against the pre-season pick to win the Great West Football Conference title.

The team is not worried about the bye week disrupting their momentum.

Kardoes said the team just needs to continue to “do what we’ve been doing.” He said the team’s goal is to go 1-0 every week.

“We just got to focus each week, beat the team that we’re up against and make sure that we know … what we’re going to be facing … We just got to execute and we’ll keep it going.”

#1.884162:1297291387.jpg:sdsuvsuca01.jpg:Chris Doblar breaks through UCA defensive for a big gain Saturday evening at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in Brookings S.D.:#1.884161:2821973180.jpg:cheerleaders02.jpg:Led by the SDSU cheerleaders, the Jackrabbit football team runs into Coughlin-Alumni Stadium for the first time in more than a month.: