Jacks bitten by Panthers

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

SDSU was on track for its first win of the season.

In front of 11,227 fans, SDSU was poised to give the University of Northern Iowa its second straight home loss of the season. The Jackrabbits held a 14-point halftime lead, but could not hold on for the victory. They fell to the UNI Panthers, 27-17.

It was the tale of two halves for the Jackrabbits. They played a great first half, but failed to capitalize on chances in the second half.

“We played our best half of football in a long, long time,” said Head Coach John Stiegelmeier.

The Jacks scored 17 first-half points. Quarterback Andy Kardoes and running back Cory Koenig each scored rushing touchdowns for the Jacks in the first half.

Kardoes threw for 173 yards, completing 17 of 26 passes. He also rushed for 49 yards on 18 carries. Koenig led the team in rushing with 52 yards on 17 carries.

The Jacks had a chance to compile an 18-point lead in the first half, but a penalty hurt them again. Brock Gentile returned an interception to the Panthers’ 3-yard line.

After a penalty, the Jacks were forced to settle for a field goal.

In the second half, the Jacks could not take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Stiegelmeier said the Jacks had a couple of legitimate scoring chances but could not put points on the board.

“They (the Panthers) got the momentum in the second half and we just never took it back,” he said. “They made plays, and we didn’t.”

Stiegelmeier said the loss was extremely disappointing. The Jacks had a chance to beat the Division I-AA runner-up and a quality football program and just did not get it done.

Looking Ahead

Next week, the Jackrabbits travel down to Thibodaux, La., to take on the Nicholls State Colonels. Last season, the Colonels finished 6-4 and tied for first place in the Southland Conference. Nicholls State made it to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, losing in the first round.

Nicholls began the season ranked 13th in one Division I-AA poll. The Colonels enter the game against the Jacks with a 1-2 record. Nicholls State began the season with a 35-0 victory against Southern Arkansas. The following week the Colonels were thrashed 56-7 by Nebraska, followed by a loss to Louisiana Tech, 31-21.

Even though the Colonels have lost two games in a row, it will be a tough game for the Jacks.

“They’re a very good football team,” said Stiegelmeier. “They have a lot of skill and a lot of speed.”

The Colonels return 13 starters, five offensive, three defensive and five special teams.

Nicholls State relies predominantly on the running game. Broderick Cole, who rushed for 717 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, leads the Colonels’ rushing attack. He has three touchdowns and averages 34.3 yards per game.

Nicholls uses the option running attack, with an assortment of running backs. The Colonels have five players who average at least 20 yards per game. Stiegelmeier said the key to stopping the option is to “play assignment football,” in which players have a specific responsibility and do not look to see which player has the ball.

Entering the game versus the Jacks, the Colonels average 49.7 yards per game passing and 174.3 rushing.

In addition to playing a quality Nicholls State football team, the Jacks may have to battle climate issues. Stiegelmeier said the climate down in Louisiana is a whole different world. A game at 2 p.m. in Louisiana may bring about weather challenges the Jacks cannot prepare for while in Brookings.

#1.884298:760859837.jpg:sdsuvsuni04.jpg:Cory Koenig of South Dakota State is facemasked by Brannon Carter of University of Northern Iowa during Saturday’s game in Cedar Falls, Iowa. :