Sunk by ‘slough’ of mistakes

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

What was supposed to be a warm-up game against a Division-III opponent turned into a painful loss for the Jackrabbits.

On Saturday, SDSU lost to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 17-3.

Last year, the Jackrabbits soundly defeated the Eagles, 42-13. This year’s game was entirely different – the Jacks scored only three points.

SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said the “slough” of a field made life tough for his players.

“That is the worst field I’ve ever been on in my coaching career,” he said.

The Jackrabbits committed one mistake after another. SDSU finished with 11 penalties and four interceptions.

Although the Jacks did not have any turnovers on fumbles, they fumbled the ball three times. SDSU receivers dropped passes, including one in the end zone. The Jacks also gave up four sacks.

The squad moved the ball effectively at times, but could not put together a touchdown scoring drive.

SDSU ran more offensive plays, finished with an advantage in time of possession and accumulated more rushing yards and total yards than UW-L, yet only managed a lone field goal.

A loss like this could be detrimental to the football team.

“It (the loss) can be devastating … I expect it not to be,” Stiegelmeier said. He said ideally the team will use the loss to get refocused and back on track.

The single bright spot on offense for the Jacks was junior running back Cory Koenig. He rushed the 156 yards.

Koenig saw the majority of the carries because senior running back Anthony Watson did not play. Watson missed practice to finish a class.

Stiegelmeier said the team’s policy is if you don’t practice, you don’t play.

Adding Injury to insult, Jacks quarterback Andy Kardoes was taken out in the second half. He bruised and had a “slight hyperextended knee,” Stiegelmeier said. The starter was removed to prevent further injury, although Kardoes said the injury did not force him out of the game and he still could have played. Stiegelmeier said he hoped the change to backup quarterback Ryan Berry might lead to a little momentum.

The team did have positives that create a foundation heading into the next game. Stiegelmeier was pleased that his players did not give up. He said the game had “a ton of good performances that get lost by the disappointing loss.” He said the defense played well.

A Look Ahead

The season only gets tougher for the Jackrabbits as they look to rebound this weekend. The team travels to Missoula, Mont., for their game against the University of Montana Grizzlies. The Jacks lost 7-0 in the meeting between the teams last year.

The team is ready to get back on the field.

“No doubt they’re back and eager,” Stiegelmeier said.

Montana is presently ranked sixth in the nation. The team lost to the University of Iowa, 41-7, in its first game of the season. Montana finished last season with an 8-4 record, tying for the Big Sky Conference Championship. The Grizzlies lost to Cal Poly in the first round of the NCAA Division 1-AA playoffs.

The Grizzlies return more than half of their starters from last year, including running back Lex Hilliard. Hilliard rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The Grizzlies added a few Division I-A transfers, including starting quarterback Josh Swogger from Washington State, on this years’ team. Wide receiver Craig Chambers and running back Reggie Bradshaw provide a quality offense with more depth.

Stiegelmeier said the Grizzlies’ offense has a good mix of passing and rushing, but the team’s forte is defense and special teams.

“They play great, great defense,” he said.

Montana is “one of the top programs every year” and “a great football team,” Stiegelmeier said.

The way the team played last year in Montana gives them a sense that they have a chance to win the game, but Stiegelmeier knows it will not be easy.

“It will be a battle,” he said.

Aiding the Jacks in battle will be Kardoes and Watson. Kardoes will start on Saturday. Stiegelmeier said his knee is good and that he completed all his sprints in practice on Tuesday.

Watson returns to the Jacks this weekend as well, reuniting the dynamic rushing duo the Jacks pounded opponents with last year.

#1.884379:2771132864.jpg:sdsuvsuwl131.jpg:Quarterback Andy Kardoes spins away from Eagles linebacker Dane Cordes in the 17-3 loss Sept. 2. Kardoes later left with an injured knee.: